Michael Gross (TREMORS, FAMILY TIES) is back to battle Graboids in the fifth installment of the beloved TREMORS franchise, and this time he teams up with funnyman Jamie Kennedy (SCREAM, BOWFINGER) to save all mankind.
Jamie caught up with Blumhouse to talk about “Ass Blasters,” Wes Craven and the appeal of deep-fried crickets…
BLUMHOUSE: There is no denying that TREMORS is a modern classic. Were you a fan of the original and subsequent sequels?
JAMIE KENNEDY: I had only seen the first one, so Ass Blasters and Shriekers were new territory for me. I was a big fan of the film. It came out when I was 19. I remember it was advertised like a straight out horror movie and then when I saw it I realized it was a lot funnier than the way it had been portrayed in the trailer. I think that’s why it caught a new life because people initially just saw it like a worm movie but its not, it’s so much more than that.
BH: Michael Gross has been there from the get-go. What was it like working with someone who is such a huge part of the TREMORS franchise?
KENNEDY: It was really good because Michael is the backbone of the movie and he’s the only one who’s been in all of the films. He’s “Mr. TREMORS,” which is beautiful, and in the film he has to keep me in line with all of the rules of TREMORS. If we wanted to try certain things, we had to run it by Michael, cause he was like the gatekeeper. He’s one of the most physical actors I’ve worked with. He’s in such good shape and is really committed. I had a new character and I could do what I want, but Michael was like “well how would Burt react to that?” We definitely had to get the blessing from Michael, but you know, Michael was also game to try anything. He loves the franchise and is very loyal to it but we did try some new stuff. Michael’s a gentleman. He’s a physical guy, but he’s also an aristocrat. He reads good books, he knows good wine, and I learnt that from him. People look at Michael as Burt Gummer, but I still look at him as Mr. Keaton from Family Ties. I feel like he raised me. I look at him as my six-grade Dad.
BH: You shot on location in South Africa. What was that like?
KENNEDY: We were in Pretoria and just after we filmed there they discovered a new species in human lineage called Homo Naledi there. It’s kind of weird and makes you think that something like TREMORS is not beyond the realm of possibility. Just when you think that birds shooting fire out of their asses and Graboids are pretty out-there, you read that there is some kind of amphibian that can shoot gas that causes a flame. At times I’m a conspiracy theorist and I like a bit of Cryptozoology, like the Montauk Monster.
I walked around Johannesburg at night and I know a lot of people say it isn’t safe, but I felt very safe. Johannesburg is really growing and people need to go there before they judge it. There are some beautiful industrial things happening there and it’s a wonderful place.
BH: Which is your favorite stage of the cycle of a Graboid?
KENNEDY: I think the coolest looking monster is the Ass Blaster, and they were easier to work with, but the Shriekers are pretty cute.
BH: We are up to number 5 in the series. Do you think there could be enough storyline fodder for another sequel?
KENNEDY: You know how that goes. If the movie is successful, there will be another one and I’d love to come back. I had a lot of fun on this. It was a lot of work and they let me be part of the creative process. I like that. They were very collaborative, the studio and the director. Anytime you are part of something like that, it’s great to be involved. Hopefully after watching the movie, audiences will see the potential for more adventures. I definitely can.
BH: There is a scene in the film where you eat a worm. It looks incredibly real.
KENNEDY: That worm was a fake worm, but the other worm in the scene was a Mopane worm. It’s like their version of a Witchety Grub. One of the actors was like South Africa’s version of Crocodile Dundee. He played the helicopter pilot. He had big fat worms and he would eat them. They are an African delicacy. I didn’t like those but I did eat a Cricket off-camera. It was salted and deep-fried and wasn’t too bad.
BH: Don Michael Paul directed. He’s an accomplished writer and also has an impressive resume as an actor. What was he like to work with?
KENNEDY: He wrote HARLEY DAVIDSON AND THE MARLBORO MAN and lots of other things, and he knows a lot about acting. The thing I really love about Don is, if he laughs at the joke, it’s in. If he doesn’t it isn’t, but he’ll try anything. Don’s really collaborative.
BH: There is so much action in the film. You ride a motorbike and are a bit of an extreme adventurer, not to mention your battles with Graboids. How intense was the physicality of the shoot?
KENNEDY: It was a very physical shoot. I tweaked my back and the stuntman twisted his ankle. A Graboid yanked me and my shoulder still hurts. It was uncomfortable to deal with. My stunt guy helped me a lot because there was just so much going on. I could only do so much! Don and Michael competed to be the most energetic guys on set and were up every morning at 6am. Don brought my game up and Michael did too. I enjoyed the motorbike a lot more than I thought I would.
BH: There was a decent amount of CGI in the film and it looks quite impressive. Do you have any preference between practical or CGI and what is your approach to working with CGI?
KENNEDY: When I worked on SON OF THE MASK, the whole movie was CGI and I had to do most of my acting with a tennis ball. I got used to acting across from nothing. I think acting is just make-believe anyway so I was fine with it. As long as you get enough takes so you feel good. I’m into what looks the most real. I think the CGI looks incredible. It’s seamless. It looks just as good as TRANSFORMERS in my opinion, and that’s what excited me.
BH: Although the film is mainly based around Burt and Travis hunting Graboids, it also touched on a few real-life issues such as poaching and government corruption. Did you witness any of these issues while on location?
KENNEDY: Unfortunately I did, yes. Poaching is a real problem. We were shooting on a safari ranch where there was a Rhino. Some poachers came in and held the workers at gunpoint and took the horn out of the Rhino, and the Rhino died. It was horrific. That was one of the few Rhinos in captivity. What is really sad is that there are so many people that are taking money and getting paid off which allows this kind of thing to happen. It has to be combatted. The laws have to be strict.
BH: SCREAM has had somewhat of resurgence lately. With a new TV series and the unfortunate and sad passing of Wes Craven, it is being talked about a lot. What was it like to be part of such a beloved franchise and to work with horror royalty, Craven?
KENNEDY: Almost twenty years ago I was at the gym and I read the script for SCREAM and I can remember reading it on the treadmill and thinking how much I wanted to get that part. A lot of scripts that aren’t that great generally have a lot of description. This just had “Int. Kitchen. Night, phone: ‘Hello Sydney…’” and it was just back and forth dialogue. I had only read nine pages and I was so into it. It was all dialogue and that was so interesting to me. It was Meta before Meta was a thing, and I was in essence the voice of the audience. I knew it was going to be big but I had no idea that it would go on to become a pop-culture lexicon and still be relevant twenty years later.
Wes was a very kind and gentle man and he gave me my start. If it weren’t for him I wouldn’t be talking to you now. I owe the world to him. God rest his soul. As violent as his movies were, he was incredibly tender and thoughtful. He loved the genre and encouraged everyone on SCREAM to watch other auteurs work like John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper. He would say, “Watch THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, watch TEXAS CHAINSAW.” He was the real thing. The first video I ever rented was A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Isn’t that funny?
BH: What can fans of the franchise expect from TREMORS 5?
KENNEDY: I always say, TREMORS — Bigger. Badder. Teethier. I hope the fan base see that we’ve really tried to give them something big and entertaining, there are a lot of good performances and the creature effects are beautifully shot and true to the lineage. I think there are many adventures that Burt and I could go on in the future. I think it could be cool to hunt the monsters at the beach or in the snow. I definitely threw a few homages and references to classic films like JAWS and DIE HARD in there as well. The new installment looks big and cinematic and I hope fans will enjoy it and see that we really put a lot of work into this.
TREMORS 5: BLOODLINES is available through Universal Pictures Home Entertainment on Blu-Ray, Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD on October 6.