What Has Director John Landis Done Now?
John Landis and Universal 360 — A Cinesphere Spectacular
, the director who has brought you such seminal films as National Lampoon's Animal House
, The Blues Brothers
and An American Werewolf in London
, is ready to unveil his latest valentine to film lovers. Debuting Saturday, July 1, at the Universal Studios theme park in Orlando, Universal 360 — A Cinesphere Spectacular
promises to be truly spectacular, a motion-picture experience unlike any other, thanks to lasers and other state-of-the-art sound and sight effects. Shortly after witnessing the first full technical run-through, Landis called TVGuide.com to share his awe, as well as to update us on his next offerings. But first, this: John Landis:
Go buy "Deer Woman
"! I made a show called "Deer Woman" for [Showtime's] Masters of Horror
[anthology series] last year, and the DVD came out yesterday. I'm quite happy with it — it stars Brian Benben
and an unbelievably beautiful girl named Cinthia Moura
. The DVD's got all kinds of extras on it, and one is really
entertaining. It's called "Working with the Master," [Laughs
] and it's interviews with people who have worked with me over the years. Don Rickles
just cuts me a new ---hole. He is so funny
; he alone is worth buying it!
TVGuide.com: Does he call you a hockey puck?
Landis: No, he doesn't. I'm actually doing a documentary on Don right now. I actually did a documentary last year called Slasher, which was about a car salesman, and now I'm doing this one on Don.
TVGuide.com: How did you get recruited for this Cinesphere Spectacular thing?
Landis: This actually came about through a guy named Jim Timon, and Jim's title, which I think is very funny, is "senior vice president of entertainment, Universal Studios Orlando Resorts." He called me and said, "Listen, we're doing this spectacular evening entertainment thing, and we'd like you to help." Well, we did the first complete technical run-through last night and it is a very complicated thing. It's like mission control with all these computers, and the centerpiece is these giant spheres in the lagoon that project images from within. And that's in conjunction with lasers and pyrotechnics and a new technology that is very cool: They laser-map a [nearby theme park] building to the millimeter so that they can project onto that building an image of the building, and it's so precise that you're totally unaware it's anything but the building.
TVGuide.com: And then they start messing with the building, right, "setting it on fire" and such?
Landis: Oh, and windows blow up.... It's an incredible effect. But the centerpiece of it all is this 20-minute montage of the history of Hollywood and Universal Studios, and that is what I consulted on, the film itself. But to call it film is wrong; I'd have to call it motion picture. What's truly remarkable is it's an old-fashioned spectacle — what they used to call a "spectacular" — but with computers now, you can time the pyrotechnics in a way to literally have whatever you want on exactly the beat. It's quite something.
TVGuide.com: So just as E.T. raises his glowing finger, you can have a laser shoot out of it.
Landis: And of course they do! The whole shtick here is "ride the movies," and movies are, honestly, without trying to sound too pretentious, our common mythology. We've all grown up with movies and visual imagery and certain actors and performances, and what we're trying to do with this montage is not only to present a historical perspective but an emotional perspective. We want you to really see why movies have such power.
TVGuide.com: How do you even begin to cull the clips together?
Landis: To be candid, there were some things I wanted in that they collectively felt [wouldn't be relevant to] 14-year-olds. W.C. Fields, Jimmy Stewart, Mae West, Marlene Dietrich and Henry Fonda are in it, but it was a constant discussion because they want to lean heavily on recent releases, which I understand.
TVGuide.com: Were you able to sneak in a "See you next Wednesday" [a trademark line in numerous Landis films]?
Landis: [Laughs] No, no... I had someone ask, "Did you put Animal House and The Blues Brothers in there?" and I had to tell them the truth. "Of course I did. They're free! They're Universal movies!" They're all such brief moments, but they evoke such an emotional response. The crowd last night was incredible — they started applauding when certain people appeared, like John Wayne, Jim Carrey.... I was really taken by the fact that [the run-through crowd] loved it so much. There is a wonderful moment I would like to take credit for, but it was the editor's doing: The show builds to this impressive, emotional finale where everyone thinks it's over, then all of a sudden John Belushi from Animal House goes, "Over?! Nothing is over until we say it is!" And then we go back in.
TVGuide.com: Changing topics to your past films: Are any of them targeted for new, updated DVD releases, director's cuts?
Landis: I was just told that the 25th anniversary for An American Werewolf in London is coming up. Universal had spent quite a bit of effort on the 20th-anniversary DVD, with all these bells and whistles and there was supposed to be this big event in Manhattan, but then 9/11 happened....
TVGuide.com: So now they're trying it again with the 25th?
Landis: Well, the problem is we kind of shot our wad! So what they're doing as we speak, and it's a very time-consuming and costly process, is preparing it to be released in hi-def [DVD format], and that's very exciting.
TVGuide.com: Is there any other movie you'd love to delve back into?
Landis: Coming to America was a very successful film but it was made very fast, and I've always felt that it was 10 or 15 minutes too long. I would love to recut it, but Paramount politely told me to go [forget about it]. [Laughs] "This picture's made $800 million! It's great!"
TVGuide.com: What do you have in the works feature-wise?
Landis: That's an excellent question. I'm doing the Don Rickles documentary, and I'm directing an episode of this new series, Psych. And I just did another Masters of Horror with George Wendt, and it's really creepy. I'm involved in about 11 projects, but the truth is the hardest part of making movies is getting the money. I enjoy filmmaking, and I'm available! Bar mitzvahs, theme parks... let me know!
TVGuide.com: Lastly, help me out here: What doctor did you play in Spider-Man 2?
Landis: I'm one of the surgeons who try to cut off Doc Ock's tentacles. The one that gets slammed into the wall.
TVGuide.com: Ohhh, so you died and good.
Landis: Oh, if you look at it again there's a close-up of it.... [Director] Sam [Raimi] puts me in his movie and of course puts me in a surgical mask.
TVGuide.com: And no encore for you in Spider-Man 3.