Why Bill Murray Was A Jerk To Zach Galligan On 'Nothing Lasts Forever' And The Latest On Gremlins 3
Frazer Brown writes for Bleeding Cool:
Zach Galligan, star of Gremlins , is in town to support The European premiere of his 'Lost' film Nothing Lasts Forever and a 70mm screening of Gremlins at the Prince Charles Cinema in London this weekend.
Nothing Lasts Forever has an interesting and storied history and remains a little known Hollywood curio. A 'Lost' film from 1984 brimming with SNL talent and a young pre-Gremlins Zach Galligan in his feature film debut. Due to various legal issues the film never saw the light of day, sitting on a shelf at Warner Bros for 32 years – unless you were watching BBC2's Moviedrome features in 1994. [Rich adds – I was!]
Now the Prince Charles Cinema in London has tracked down 5 35mm reels and will be showing it for the first time in a cinema ever on these shores. They advertise it thus:
An artist fails a test and is required to direct traffic in New York City's Holland Tunnel. He winds up falling in love with a beautiful woman, who takes him to the moon on a Lunar Cruiser.
I sat down and chatted with Zach Galligan, about the film, its importance to Zach personally, meeting Bill Murray for the first time and the future of the Gremlins Franchise.
BC: Zach, I want to hear all about Nothing Lasts Forever- This is regarded as a 'Lost Film' It was of course your film debut. How important is the film to you personally? and where do you see it's place in cinematic history as a 'lost film'? – Warner Bros have famously kept it away from the public, is your average Cinephile missing out on a classic?
Zach Galligan: First of all it was my film debut so the film is very near and dear to my heart. I was only 18 years old and I was astounded by the people I was working with and in awe of the whole process. Just wandering round the set, you've got Lorne Michaels [Producer] and Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Judy Belushi is there and Director Tom Schiller…it's crazy. They were all friends and people would just come by the set – and friends of friends…one day an 'unknown' actress called Glenn Close who was dating the Production Manager came by, it was just really amazing. As for the film itself? I don't know if it's a "lost Classic" but it's a film that deserves to be seen. And I think anybody that likes or loves cinema or film in general would take immense pleasure even if it doesn't, shall we say, make 'complete sense' as a film.
BC: The plot is kind of 'out there'. The film was originally scheduled for release in 1984. After sitting on the shelf for two years, it was decided it should be shelved indefinitely, what was holding it back?
ZG: There were a number of things holding it back and that's why the release was so problematic. First and foremost there were rights issues; Tom Schiller was rather liberal with his use of footage and archive images, that didn't in a sense belong to him. He was saying "it's a salute to silent film' and we were like "it's a little bit more than a 'salute' to silent film Tom, you're actually using clips of silent film in it. People were in awe of what he was doing, it was very clever, but people were saying 'Tom, you're probably going to have to pay these people a fair amount of money to use clips from Intolerance and Birth of a Nation etc"
BC: So you're 18 years old, it's your first film in the can, Gremlins is a year away, it's exciting. It's going to be a big thing and then it's shelved, how does that make you feel?
ZG: Well the timing was such that I had booked Gremlins already, so basically I found out that (Ironically) Nothing Lasts Forever. I found out that nothing significant was going to happen with the film pretty much straight after I had finished shooting Gremlins, so a lot of the sting was taken out of it as I had something else coming along.
BC: And now we get to see it in the UK in the cinema, is this the first time it's been shown?
ZG: I'm not a film historian, but I believe this is the FIRST time it has been shown in the UK, certainly in a cinema. It's kind of amazing that a film with a cast like this could still be relatively unknown by the public 34 years after the fact.
BC: it seems to be a film that is dear to other cast members hearts as well; I've read several articles with both Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd singing its praises, they, along with you, have attended screenings in LA and offered their services for DVD commentaries etc, should a home release appear. There must be something special there for such vocal support?
ZG: You would think so, it certainly seems that way.
BC: Speaking of SNL alumni, Tom Schilling the Director famously had an 11 year stint directing and writing SNL and Lorne Michaels 'MR SNL' himself is producing the movie. As someone that most likely grew up watching the show, how does 18-year-old you react when he first meets Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd THE stars of SNL?
ZG: It's SHOCKING, ha ha. It's also kind of terrifying – there was a dynamic on set that I completely didn't expect. I don't know why I was expecting this, but I thought Bill Murray would meet me, he'd think I was cool and he and I would be pals. I mean I guess that's what people would hope would happen. We had some rehearsals which he couldn't attend as he was shooting Tootsie at the time, so he was working on BOTH Nothing Lasts Forever and Tootsie simultaneously.
BC: And I assume with that kind of commitment to two films at the same time, the stars are there for Tom Schilling and in support of the SNL team?
ZG: 100%, and of course they are there for Lorne Michaels. If Lorne needs you on set, you're there. If he picked you for SNL and made you're career, your obviously not going to tell him to buzz off. I got the feeling at the time, that there was real affection for Schiller and Lorne, that Murray and Aykroyd adored them and in fact probably still do, as they both continue to support the movie.
Now of course there was one incident that had happened before shooting began and that is the death of John Belushi. John Belushi died in March of 1982 and was due to be in the movie, and we started shooting in April of 1982. What it was like for them to lose someone so beloved and of that magnitude and try to deal with it, they only had one month to try and recover whilst filming. That was a very, very big factor in the whole film. It was heavy and the feeling on the set was heavy as well.
So I thought I'd breeze on to the set and Bill Murray would be all excited and "oh hey this is the guy I'm going to be acting with" I mean you've got to remember I was 18. What do I know about the world or life, or how anything works? I'm a senior in High School. I was a kid. So I come in thinking we'd be pals and Bill Murray comes in, says Hi to Tom (Schiller) – I can see it like it was yesterday – he takes a glance at me and a tad condescendingly turns to Tom and says (Zach in spot on Bill Murray voice): "So, who's the KID?" Tom says "that's Zach, have you met him?" and Bill turns back to Tom and says "well has he paid his dues yet?" and I laughed – I thought he was joking, because how could an 18-year-old possibly have paid his dues? But it seemed like he was serious. And then he ignored me for an hour, and I thought "what a dick" and for the rest of the film he essentially antagonised me. The reason why he antagonised me, which I found out later, was that his character and my character were Nemeses, they do not like each other and he thought (and Bill is an unusual guy) I wasn't an experienced enough actor, which is true as it was my movie debut, not experienced enough to pal around with him on set and then 'snap back' in to character in order to make the enmity believable or plausible – he thought he would MAKE me not like him, and then after the movie be friendly.
BC: So in a way he was helping you? You could rose tint it that way….or he was just being a dick, I don't know…from the story I like to believe he was assisting a young actor…ha…
ZG: I suppose he thought he was helping me. What WAS strange, was it would extend to my family members; so my sister would visit and he'd say things to my sister and my mother…
BC: So he went FULL method to the extent of including your family members, that's commitment to your art.
ZG: Ha, ha…my family members were definitely included. But, look, I don't want to spoil anyone's view of Bill Murray, the story does have a happy ending…. After Nothing Lasts Forever, I did Gremlins, they did Ghostbusters…and as a matter of fact, they shot Ghostbusters on my campus at Columbia University in New York City. I was walking to class one day, I saw them shooting it and there were all these Police barricades and I saw them (Bill and Dan) and they were standing in front of this hearse, y'know with a ghost on it and their outfits with what looked like ray guns and I'm like 'what the hell is this?' it looked totally bizarre. I managed to push through the throng of kids and get Bill's attention. The crowd was in awe so it was pretty silent – when we were working on Nothing Lasts they had asked me to call them Billy and Danny – I guess that's what their friends called them and Dan Aykroyd, who's THE nicest guy in the world, would let me call him it on set. When someone who's famous like Dan Aykroyd tells you to call him Danny instead of MR AYKROYD, you're totally going to do it.
So I'm behind the Police barricades, the crowd is silent and I shout out "HEY BILLY, DANNY" and I guess because I use their 'familiar names' they look around and Bill Murray sees me, I don't know how because we're a good fifty feet away…but he sees me and says (affects perfect Aykroyd and Murray cadence) "Hey! It's the KID!" and Danny says "Oh Yeah" and they motion over, so I climb under the barricade and a Policeman stops me. And in one of the greatest moments of my life, Bill Murray places his hand on the policeman's shoulder and says "officer, it's OK, the Kid's with us" and all of my classmates – most of whom I didn't know are behind the barrier thinking "what the heck? Who IS this kid"? So I got to hang out on set and chat with them and lean against the car, and when I went back under the barrier my classmates silently parted like the Red Sea…thinking, "who is this guy that gets to hang with SNL cast members?" and since that day anytime I see Bill Murray he's always been really cool and really nice, I think on the set of Nothing Lasts it was a bad time for everyone because of John Belushi passing.
On GREMLINS 3:
BC: So, moving on from your experiences on 'Nothing Lasts' can we talk about Gremlins? You're coming over this weekend for the Nothing Lasts screening, but also a 70mm presentation of Gremlins with a Q and A is happening on Saturday. So, regarding Gremlins 3, what's happening with the film? I know you've been misquoted a lot on the subject, is anything at a stage you can tell us about?
ZG: I think you can tell what's happening with Gremlins 3 the same way you could tell with Gremlins 2. It's the same people and they tend to work the same way. There is a huge time gap but it's Warner Bros, Spielberg and Chris Columbus. Now, Chris Columbus didn't have anything to do with Gremlins 2 – because by his own admission he didn't see a franchise. He kind of regrets it I believe, but he was 'one and done' I don't think he cared for Gremlins 2 and the direction some of the characters went in, so he's kind of wrested control back. Everything I'm quoting is stuff he's publicly said…
'There will NEVER be a remake, There will NEVER be a reboot there will only be a SEQUEL'
He has been aggressively working on a Gremlins 3 that takes place in present day. He tantalisingly says there will be some NEW characters and some OLD characters – I guess in the style of a Force Awakens type sequel – One thing we know for sure is they have a writer on board. The only insight I can give is the following: There was a 6 year gap between Gremlins and Gremlins 2 most of that time was spent with them writing and rejecting ideas and re-writing. One of the ideas that was rejected was 'gremlins in Vegas' they went with that for 18 months and felt it was too expensive. Eventually they came up with the tower idea, where essentially I'm working for Donald Trump our new President! That took six years to happen. Carl Ellsworth, has been apparently working on the script for a year and a half now. If no new names start appearing on the IMDB listing then that means they like the script. If new names start appearing, y'know Kevin Smith appears, it means it's back in rewrites with a new vision. Warner Bros definitely wants it, Chris Columbus wants to do it because he'd like to undo the Gremlins 2 thing as he wasn't thrilled with it and Spielberg wants to do it I imagine – because he's Spielberg – and why wouldn't he want to do it. Once he's found the right script he can attach his name and make a ton of money. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
BC: I mean in a way it has to happen right? Nostalgia is a huge commodity right now and Gremlins has a lasting legacy. It's almost crazy not to have it happen.
ZG: Right, they want it to happen, whether I'm in it or not I have no idea. I've had people say it's kind of hard to see how they wouldn't use you and Gizmo, but I have no idea.
BC: "Sherriff Billy Peltzer, divorced father of two in a small town, Christmas 2018"…. there's always a way in….
ZG: Of course, there's always a way. They could exclude me completely, you never know. But, here's the thing; they started shooting Gremlins 2 on memorial day weekend 1989 around 27th May, I got the offer to do Gremlins 2 in February. It's 3 months before the shoot commenced and they still haven't contacted me or Phoebe (Cates) I'm sure it's a negotiating ploy, "its up, it's running, here's the money, take it or leave it?" ha.
BC: Speaking of pitch meetings, did you see the Key and Peele Gremlins 2 pitch meeting skit? I like to think that's happening right now for Gremlins 3
ZG: I did, you have to understand if you say, "did you see this Gremlins thing…" the answer is ….yes.
BC: Here's a fun fact about Gremlins 2 you won't know. It was the first movie I was ever thrown out of for being under age. They had just introduced the 12 rating in the UK for Batman and Gremlins 2 and I was 11 ½. So I didn't get to see it, until it was released on VHS three years later.
ZG: Typical British repression – I'm just kidding! Brits are known here for following 'The Rules' which is probably why it's so loved there. The lesson of Gremlins is 'always follow the rules'
ON THE RULES
BC: So I guess you have those rules thrown at you all the time?
ZG: I swear to God and I'm not exaggerating, I've had a rules based joke thrown at me every other day for 32 years.
BC: Well, the upside is you've made that impact on people's lives, that's a beautiful thing.
ZG: Don't get me wrong, believe it or not I still find it somewhat amusing. I'm jumping on a flight tonight at 11.42pm. I can guarantee at least one person will say to me on the plane "don't eat after midnight". Here's the thing… I will never lose my humour about 'The Rules' and here's why; I heard of a famous actress (who will remain nameless) who had a catchphrase, she's famous for it. A fan ran up to her and said this catchphrase and her response was a snide "you think that's funny? How unoriginal" to a FAN, someone who loved her work, I swore I would never be that guy.
BC: What a beautiful sentiment. On that note, thanks for chatting with us Zach. Here's looking forward to Gremlins 3 – whenever it may happen- and have a great screening this Saturday and Sunday at the Prince Charles Cinema.
ZG: Thank you.
Nothing Lasts Forever is showing at the Prince Charles Cinema Sunday 4th December – Tickets are available here