Jim Wynorski Interview

Jim Wynorski is a movie god to me.  It’s been his body of work that’s directly responsible for many’s love of campy and naked B-movies.  Without films like Chopping Mall, The Lost Empire, Dinosaur Island, Return Of Swamp Thing, and the first remake of Not Of This Earth many would be out wandering in a Michael Bay or Quentin Tarantino confusion.  What makes Wynorski’s work so wonderful is just how off the wall, weird, exploitative, and eclectic it’s been over his career of thirty years plus in the film industry.  To experience a Wynorski film is to experience the man himself. There aren’t any hidden meaning’s or lost metaphor’s in his films. Jim Wynorski likes guns, monsters, hot chicks with big bazooms, magic, ninjas, and guys dressed in Gorilla suits attacking.  Just check out The Lost Empire.

For Christ’s sake, Wynorski discovered Jennifer Love Hewitt and brought Traci Lords into the mainstream from mid/late ’80s pornography.  He’s worked with Angie Dickson, Julie Strain, Heather Locklear, Nancy Allen, Robert Vaughn, and the exceptional Maria Ford.

Jim Wynorski got his first big break after he moved to Los Angeles in 1980 from Long Island, N.Y where he owned a successful television commercial production company.  He was hired by cinematic ground-breaker, Roger Corman and started cutting together trailers for upcoming Corman produced features.  Wynorski would  eventually move up in Corman’s company as he developed the story for the recently on DVD Roger Corman produced Erin Moran in space, Forbidden World (1982).

Wynorski would direct his first feature The Lost Empire in 1983. It’s an all out B-movie everything-in-one-place epic, a must see Wynorski masterpiece.   Sadly it’s not on DVD in the USA. In recent years, Jim’s directed a variety of genre films including softie straight to Cinemax money-makers like: The Bare Wench Project and Cleavagefield as well as larger audience reaching films like the Scy Fy channel’s  Dinocroc Vs. Supergator and Boneater.

Additionally, during the course of his prolific career, Jim’s been involved in some of the strangest “better than the original” sequels of films like Big Bad Mama 2, Ghoulies 4, and 976-Evil 2.  Having completed over seventy-five films in the last thirty years, Wynorski is finally getting the notice he deserves. With the 2009 produced documentary, Popatopolis [directed by Clay Westervelt] chronicling the passionate making of his financially successful bare-naked Witches Of Breastwick, to his popular B-movie tenure in Franklin, Indiana each year at the B-Movie Celebration Film Festival.  What the hell is there not to love about Mr. Jim Wynorski?

Chatting with Wynorski has been a bucket-list thing to do.  He’s humble, friendly but a bit shy, to the point. So he doesn’t hold back at all.

BOZUNG:  All your older films are growing in popularity.  Do you think the younger generation, kids that grew up in the 80’s are starting to see how important, fun and original your work is?

JIM WYNORSKI: Well, I don’t know about.  I think this generation was exposed to my earlier films through cable. Films I made 12 years ago are still on cable. I mean, none of my earlier films are really dated.  I didn’t do a lot of work with dated cars in them.  I did some.  But if you see a movie and you think it’s current, it’s current.  So maybe that’s why people are still enjoying my movies.  Certainly, Chopping Mall is dated.   Big Bad Mama 2 is a period piece.  Deathstalker 2 is a anachronistic comedy of sorts. Return Of Swamp Thing takes place in a swamp, and you could watch that any time.

BOZUNG: You grew up on Long Island, N.Y.  As a teen did you ever trek into Times Square and check out the Grindhouse films being shown on 42nd street in the ’60s and ’70s?

JIM WYNORSKI: Oh yeah!  When I was like fifteen or sixteen, I would take a train into the city, and head straight to Times Square 42nd street and start watching movies.  And when I was in college I was skipping class to go there.   I was able to see a ton of films. It was the only place you could see some of those exotic films.

BOZUNG: Do you have any stand-outs that you saw during that period of your life?

JIM WYNORSKI: I saw a ton of spaghetti western films that never played elsewhere.  A lot of Hammer stuff.  The Ilsa movies.   A ton of great stuff.

BOZUNG: Before you moved out to Los Angeles, you owned a television commercial production company.  I was wondering if you could talk some about that aspect of your history?

JIM WYNORSKI:  I was making commercials for local business retailers.  But I wasn’t getting any creative satisfaction out of that, but it was really successful.  So I decided to take a big chance and try my luck out in Hollywood, and it worked out for me.

BOZUNG: I heard a rumor that you’re actually working on behalf of Roger Corman with Shout! Factory directly in getting these Corman ’80s titles released and re-released onto DVD?

JIM WYNORSKI: No, that’s not true.  I mean, I’m working with them on my titles directly, but not on behalf of others.

BOZUNG: Will we ever see Dinosaur Island (1994) com to  DVD?

JIM WYNORSKI:  I can’t say anything for sure.  I’m not on the board at Shout! Factory.  They come to me, and tell me exactly what title they wanna put out, and I say, OK.  Then it’s up to me to try to give them stuff that can make the best release possible.

BOZUNG: What about a U.S DVD release of your first film The Lost Empire?

JIM WYNORSKI:  You know I’ve tried to get The Lost Empire (1984) on DVD for many years.  The company that owns it is afraid of it.  They’re scared to sell the rights.  So I think it’s just gonna set there for many years to come. It’s sad, and I can’t do anything about it.

BOZUNG: Did you know that The Lost Empire sells on Ebay and Amazon for over forty dollars a copy on VHS?

JIM WYNORSKI:  Yeah, that’s the only way to see the film, and it’s a crappy version.  The film was shot in wide screen, and the VHS is in pan and scan

BOZUNG: Shout! Factory is re-releasing your Traci Lords version of Not Of This Earth on October 5th.  Didn’t you just record a new commentary track for the release with Traci Lords?

JIM WYNORSKI:  Yep, about a month ago we did it.  The new DVD is gonna have the new commentary and my old one as well from the first DVD release.

BOZUNG:  Was getting back together for the commentary with Traci the first time you’d seen her since you shot the film back in 1988?

JIM WYNORSKI: Nope, I’d seen her and we’d talked a few times since then. She’s very nice and we get along well.  It was really nice to see her again. We spent a  Sunday afternoon doing the new commentary.  It was a lot of fun.

BOZUNG: Given what Traci Lords was going through at that time, was it difficult for you to get her involved in the film, and to have her do the nudity in the film?

JIM WYNORSKI:  Well, it wasn’t difficult to convince her, but to find her actually!   She’d gone underground, once the stories of her being under-age hit the press. The porno mafia was after her supposedly, cause she cost them a lot of money. But I did find her, and we asked her, and she said yes, and it started a whole new career for her.

BOZUNG: One of my favorite films that you’ve done is your remake of Roger Corman’s The Wasp Woman (1995), how did that project come about?

JIM WYNORSKI: Well, Corman’s company was remaking a bunch of his films for Showtime. So I asked Roger if I could re-make The Wasp Woman.   Roger said yes.  The original had an very interesting plot, but the film never followed through with the special effects. So I wanted to do it with some bigger crazier effects.

BOZUNG: Another of my favorites is your film 976-Evil 2, how did that come about?

JIM WYNORSKI:  I hate that film…laughing It was a tough film to make.  I was handed the script, and I didn’t think it was very good.  The only aspect of that script that I liked was this sequence where the girl is supposed to be sucked into a Pac-Man video game, and she gets eaten up by the things.  But I decided that aspect would just be to expensive.  So, one night I had this nightmare,  where I was trapped in the world of Night Of The Living Dead and It’s A Wonderful Life.   I woke up in a sweat, and remembered it all, and I loved the idea.  At that time, both those films where in the public domain, so we built a recreation of the set of It’s A Wonderful Life, and we cast actors that looked similar to the actors in the Jimmy Stewart film.  So for me that’s the one stand out aspect of that film, cause it’s so weird. Everyone remembers it though.

BOZUNG:  I love that film so much more now, especially that sequence now that I know what went into it.  I can’t believe it wasn’t in the original script!

JIM WYNORSKI:  Yep, it was a replacement idea.

BOZUNG:  How did you get involved in directing so many random movie sequels?

JIM WYNORSKI:  Well people would just come to me and ask!  And I always said “Yes!”  I wanted the money, and the experience. There where only a couple films that I turned down. I always wanted to make a sequel only if the previous film was bad.   There wasn’t much point to make a sequel if the previous release was really great.  I wanted to make a sequel that’s better than the first one.

BOZUNG: Of all the acting cameo’s you’ve done over the years, two of my favorite’s are your appearance in Hard To Die (1990) and when you’re running down the street in Attack Of The 60ft Centerfolds (1995). Do you have a favorite?’

JIM WYNORSKI:  Well, you know those things are just for fun.  I guess if I had to pick one, I’d say my favorite was when I played the hanging judge in Body Chemistry 4 (1995).  I can’t stand doing those if it takes more than one hour.  Then I’m ready to go back to the real world.

BOZUNG:  Looking back now all these years later,  do you still feel the same about the Odette Springer film, Some Nudity Required (1995)?

JIM WYNORSKI:  Well, I still feel the same way. She ms-represented herself.  She made a film that tore everybody down.  Roger didn’t like her.  He put a lawsuit on her.   That’s why her film has never come out on DVD, and all the tapes were pulled.  I was not a happy camper with that film. If you watch it, she’s nuts.   I mean, c’mon, accusing B-movies of causing molestation…She’s crazy.

BOZUNG: Of all the actors and actresses you’ve worked with do you have any favorites?

JIM WYNORSKI:  Certainly, I loved working with Traci Lords, Heather Locklear, Angie Dickinson, I loved working with almost everyone, there was only a handful I didn’t like.

BOZUNG:  OK, I gotta ask this Jim!  I’ll regret it if I don’t.  It’s personal. You can decline to answer if you want. But I’ve always wanted to know the answer to this question.  How many actresses have you slept with in the course of your career?

JIM WYNORSKI:  Well…I think I’ll take a pass on that question and not….[long pause]….a lot…laughing

BOZUNG:  Of all your films, do you have one or two that you’re most proud of and why?

JIM WYNORSKI:  Well, I’m always looking at the next film, as the new baby.  Part of coming to Franklin this weekend again, was for the chance to premiere Monster Cruise.  These people here made it.  Bill Dever the producer, pulled together everything, a huge production.  It was so much fun.  And the premiere was very satisfying.  A wonderful experience.

BOZUNG:  What are you working on next?

JIM WYNORSKI:  I’m finishing up a new film, Camel Spiders. I’m working on a Showtime series as well.

BOZUNG: So, how did you think the documentary about you Popatopolis turned out?

JIM WYNORSKI:  At first I was worried about it. But it turned out to be a lot of fun. It’s certainly not my favorite thing to watch, cause I’m in it.   It could’ve turned out worse.

BOZUNG:  I loved it.  I think with it, you’re finally starting to get the notice and deserve you should’ve been getting all along. Was it a good experience?

JIM WYNORSKI:  Well, I do what I do.  Clay Westervelt who made it, put a lot of heart into it, and I enjoyed it for what it was.  I don’t pull it off the shelf and watch it–because it’s me.

BOZUNG: Does it portray you accurately?

JIM WYNORSKI: Yes…He captured all my bad and good sides.  It’s right on the money.

BOZUNG: Were you surprised by anyone’s comments in the film?

JIM WYNORSKI:  No..not really.  Some people like it, some don’t.  I was afraid people would take it the wrong way, but I think most people get my style.  It’s about the making of a movie.  They show me making the movie.  And they don’t show the finished movie.   For whatThe Witches Of Breastwick is, it’s pretty enjoyable. It made a lot of money. It played Showtime, Cinemax, and the Playboy Channel for two years straight.  That’s pretty good for a movie made in three days!

BOZUNG: One of my favorite aspects of Popatopolis is the appearance of your mom.  Are you anywhere close to fulfilling your mom’s wishes for you of getting married?

JIM WYNORSKI:  Yeah..I don’t think so.  Why buy a cow when you can go to the store and get a carton of milk!

BOZUNG: Given the demise of B-movies on pay cable over the last twenty years, do you ever get frustrated with the current state of the B-movie industry?

JIM WYNORSKI:  Nope. No way. I am continuing to work.  B films are always changing.  As long as you’re continuing to work, you’re OK.

BOZUNG:  With technology so easy these days, do you think it’s saturating the market?  Is is more difficult for films to get seen or noticed?

JIM WYNORSKI:  For sure.  You can’t buy talent though.  You can go out and buy a cheap camera. You can yell action and cut.   But if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s gonna look like crap, and it’s gonna get stuck on a hard drive in your garage.  Making the film, selling it, that’s the key.

BOZUNG: How hard is it to sell your movie these days?

JIM WYNORSKI:  More difficult to sell it than it was a few years ago, but it’s still possible.  A couple weeks ago, I had seven movies on cable at the same, they were all competing against each other.   These are movies I made ten years ago, and they’re still on cable, and across different networks, no less.

BOZUNG: Do you have a favorite film of all time?

JIM WYNORSKI:  The Thing From Another World. The black and white one.  And of course, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  Anything Sergio Leone.   If I was on a desert island, those are the ones I’d want.

BOZUNG:  But Jim, what if there is no electricity on the island?

JIM WYNORSKI: Well, I guess you’d just have to look at the covers!   Or if you had the print, I guess you could hold it up to the sunlight.  It wouldn’t matter, I have most of the scenes from those pictures memorized.

This interview was first published in the Spring of 2011.  Re-printed with permission of Mondo Film, LLC.  All rights reserved.