FIVE QUESTIONS: MICHAEL STEPHENSON
Most people would shy away from being associated with a bad movie. Not Michael Stephenson. The former child actor embraces it. In “Best Worst Movie,” Stephenson makes his directorial debut and delves into the cult following for the deliriously bad horror film “Troll 2” — in which he played annoying lead Joshua Waits. The well-reviewed documentary also catches up with the cast of the 1990 film, with Stephenson’s costar George Hardy at the forefront. Stephenson and Hardy have traveled the world screening the documentary at various film festivals, and now their quirky retrospective returns to Los Angeles with a showing May 21 at the Landmark Nuart. The film will play at the theater for at least a week. Hero Complex contributor Yvonne Villarreal caught up with Stephenson for a round of five questions.
YV: There are so many films out there claiming to be the worst movie; what makes “Troll 2,” in your opinion, the official holder of the title?
MS:The short and sweet answer: There are no trolls in “Troll 2.” Usually, if you’re going to have the title of the movie representing the horror and the monsters within the story, it would help if the title were accurate.
YV: Right. And it’s not even a sequel.
MS: Exactly. It’s not a sequel and there are no trolls [laughs].
YV: If you had to pick a Best Worst Movie runner-up, what movie would it be?
MS: Oh, that’s tough. Oh, man. There are a lot of bad movies. I think that a bad movie is one that has no effect or that bores you. I would say “Transformers 2” is a bad movie. It’s a film that had hundreds of millions of dollars put into it and … it’s boring.
YV: What’s the weirdest thing you learned while making the documentary?
MS: There’ve been so many! Well, two things stand out as the weirdest. One would be, while making it, learning that one of the guys [Don Packard, who played a Nilbog store owner in “Troll 2”] I worked with on set actually wanted to kill me as a child. That was very terrifying to learn. And the next-weirdest thing — and it’s probably more concerning and more weird — is I can’t even say that “Troll 2” is the baddest movie out there. I think it’s an amazing movie. It’s left this impact and created this communal experience for hundreds of people throughout the country … and throughout the world.
YV: What has been the response of “Troll 2” fans to the documentary?
MS:We’ve been really grateful and fortunate because the documentary has gone over amazingly well. We played film festivals all last year. And most of the people who saw it at film festivals had never even heard of “Troll 2,” let alone subjected themselves to it previously. And more people are now being turned on to “Troll 2” by the documentary — I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. But the response has been really amazing. It takes a certain person to like a bad movie. I mean, most people don’t go out with the intent to like a bad movie. But through this documentary, they’re introduced to this “Troll 2” world that they had no idea about through a warm and acceptable character like George.
YV: Well, given its lasting popularity and with so many films being remade these days, do you think a remake of “Troll 2” would be worthwhile?
MS: It’s a fun thought. But “Troll 2” is perfect as it is, in all of its blemished glory. There’s no way you can re-create something like it. Actually, the thought of remaking “Troll 2” makes me frown a little bit because you can’t remake something like that. It’s weird because you have this horrible movie that fails in every regard, but, in the same breath, it’s absolutely perfect as it is. I was talking about “The Room” and “Birdemic” with people the other day; I heard something I had never heard before. We screened it at Lucasfilm the other day; one of the employees said “Troll 2” is kind of like the John Hughes bad movie. It’s very innocent and has this kind of charm. Bad movies are a big trend right now. With “The Room,” the director [Tommy Wiseau] has changed his position and now says it’s a dark comedy and is marketing it that way. And the director of “Birdemic” [James Nguyen] is marketing his as a bad movie. What sets “Troll 2” apart is Claudio [Fragasso] would never do that. He really believes in it. He’s very serious about it. And you know what, I love him for that. Most people are not that sincere with what they do.
Having a slow day at work? Well, thanks to the miracle of Hulu, here’s “Troll 2,” in its entirety. Just hit play, sit back and prepare to be amazed — no matter how bad you think it’s going to be, it’s actually worse. This film is rated PG-13 and their are two mild profanities in the movie.
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Photos: Top, promotional poster for “Best Worst Movie.” Middle, the beasties of “Troll 2.” Credit: Trans World Entertainment. Bottom, the strange menace of “Phantasm.” Credit: New Breed Productions Inc.
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