John Carpenter, the legendary director of films including “Halloween,” “Escape From New York,” “The Thing,” “Starman,” “Big Trouble in Little China” and many more, isn’t one to hold back in conversation.
Ask him about “They Live,” his subversive sci-fi flick that starred professional wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper as the film’s blue-collar hero Nada, who discovers an alien conspiracy to mind-control the people of Earth using invisible messages, and he’ll admit that it’s his most political movie — his response to consumerism and class disparity in the 1980s.
“By the end of the ’70s there was a backlash against everything in the ’60s, and that’s what the ’80s were, and Ronald Reagan became president, and Reaganomics came in,” Carpenter said at the fourth annual Hero Complex Film Festival, where he appeared for an onstage Q&A between sold-out screenings of “They Live” and “Halloween” at the Chinese 6 Theatres in Hollywood.
“So a lot of the ideals that I grew up with were under assault, and something called a yuppie came into existence, and they just wanted money,” he said. “And so by the late ’80s, I’d had enough, and I decided I had to make a statement, as stupid and banal as it is, but I made one, so that’s ‘They Live.’ … I just love that it was giving the finger to Reagan when nobody else would.”
The Carpenter double feature served as the opening night for the festival, which also paid tribute to the work of filmmakers Frank Darabont, Guillermo Del Toro, Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin. Darabont and surprise guest Thomas Jane were on hand to discuss their horror film “The Mist,” while Del Toro took the stage after unveiling the latest trailer for “Pacific Rim” between screenings of his Spanish-language movies “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth.”
On Sunday afternoon, Emmerich and Devlin discussed “Independence Day” sequel possibilities after a screening of that film, and were joined by surprise guest Jeff Goldblum and the movie’s visual effects chief Volker Engel. The event closed with a 20th anniversary salute to the landmark television series “The X-Files,” where creator Chris Carter was joined on stage by writers Glen and Darin Morgan.
Watch the video above to see the complete interview with Carpenter, during which he spoke not only about “They Live” but also about “Halloween,” his affection for actors who don’t, well, behave like divas on set, and being subversive in Hollywood.
— Noelene Clark and Gina McIntyre
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