SDCC 2000: An Interview With Some Specials

Converting over old articles to 3.0… and here’s the first interview I ever did at Comic-Con in the year 2000… a lot has changed since then.

At the San Diego Comics Convention, one movie sat on everyone’s lips. It had a lower budget than expected, no real stars, and it portrayed a realistic view of the superhero lifestyle. That movie was X-Men.

Another movie was there, too. And the lucky few who saw it, loved it. That movie was The Specials, and the some of the people involved appeared at the convention the next day to answer questions, bare their souls, and generate some well-deserved hype. Daily Radar grabbed a few minutes with some of its key players.

First up was James Gunn, who wrote, executive produced, and co-starred as Minute Man, the shrinking superhero.

Daily Radar: Why a movie about superheroes?

James Gunn: I love superheroes. I’ve always loved superheroes. The person who I really looked up to as a little kid, who I had the pleasure of meeting recently, was Stan Lee. The fact that he focused on the private lives of superheroes, that always interested me much more than the battles. When I read The Avengers every month, I’d always be more interested in what was going on between The Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man than I was with whatever android they were fighting that month. I’ve also always been interested in people’s jobs, and the fact that any job we have, whether it be a rock star or an actor or a film director or what, it ends up being a job, the same as working at a furniture store. In a lot of ways, The Specials is about that; they’re superheroes but they’ve gotten used to it. It’s the same as working at The Gap.

DR: What did you do before?

JG: Really, this is the thing that got me started, but the first thing I did was a movie called Tromeo and Juliet for Troma Studios. I worked for Troma Studios for two years. In that time I was able to do whatever I wanted. We had our own TV station at the time in Europe, which I ran. Lloyd Kaufman (the head of Troma), who’s a good good friend, just let me do whatever I wanted. That was my film school essentially. Then I wrote a book, with Lloyd, called All I Know About Film-making I Learned From The Toxic Avenger. Then I wrote this script and this movie got made. From this script, I got all my other work.

DR: I didn’t know you were the guy on Scooby Doo. How did that come about?

JG: I am the guy on Scooby Doo. I’m also the guy on Spy Vs. Spy, actually.

DR: Mike Myers wrote an early draft. The rumor out there is that he’s still attached to play Shaggy.

JG: No, that’s not true.

DR: Good. How did you fall into that?

JG: I fell into Spy Vs. Spy because of The Specials. They read The Specials and loved that. Actually, they didn’t, Jay Roach did, who directed the Austin Powers movies and was attached to direct Spy Vs. Spy. He fell in love with The Specials. He actually helped in getting this movie made. He interviewed me for that, and Warner Brothers really liked Spy Vs. Spy, and that’s when they asked me to do Scooby Doo. And then I’m doing another picture for them after that.

DR: What about acting?

JG: I’m working on a script right now, called Full Tilt, that we’re probably going to be doing in the next year. It’s an action movie, sort of like The Specials, but it’s a bigger budget and I’ll be in that. There’s another couple of people attached to that.

DR: The Specials seemed so quick, almost improvisational. Was there any improvisation?

JG: No. Not every word there was mine, but it’s pretty much the script. It’s the way I write. I’m somewhat schizophrenic, so that when I write people think that my scripts come from some sort of improvisational work-out, but it’s not. It’s all in my head. Some people stayed to the script more than others. Tom (Thomas Haden Church) is pretty funny, but for the most part it’s the script.

James got dragged away by a publicist before he could say more nice things about Thomas Haden Church, who spent most of the press conference asking where he could find memorabilia from his upcoming film with Brendan Fraser, Monkeybone. Before Daily Radar could reach him, Church got inexplicably sucked into a Battlefield Earth presentation (a movie so bad it tried to take down the careers of actors not even involved…). Luckily, director Craig Mazin (editor’s note: Craig went on to co-write The Hangover Trilogy) stepped in to fill the void.

Before making his directorial debut with The Specials, Mazin wrote the first drafts of Disney’s Rocket Man and Senseless, starring Marlon Wayans. Please don’t hold this against him, because his work on The Specials redeems him. While Mazin spoke, actress Judy Greer (Deadly Girl) came over, followed closely by actress Paget Brewster (Ms. Indestructible).

DR: Why direct this movie?

CRAIG MAZIN: When I read James’ script, the reason that I wanted to direct it, other than the fact that it was very well written, was that I kind of float around the fringe of the comic book world, but when I read Watchmen I was blown away by that thing. And when I read the script it had that same feeling but funny. I’d just seen so many bad superhero movies, time and time again. You wonder how these guys swing and miss by so much. A lot of times people say “oh, I can do a better job than that,” and you can’t. But I really thought that the whole genre had been mishandled terribly by Hollywood. After Scream came along and tweaked horror, I thought this was a similar thing we could do for superheroes.

DR: The cast clearly gets along really well. Is there a sort of repertory company in your future?

CM: We could be like the Mercury Theater (Orson Welles’ original acting troupe, which did Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons). I would love to work with these guys again. I had the best time. We were friends before we worked on this. It would be great.

JUDY GREER: I went to college with Sean (Gunn, Alien Orphan) and I got to know his brothers. Sean and I did a movie right after college with Jamie (Kennedy), so I’ve known Jamie for like five years and Sean for longer. And when Craig came into it, initially we were nervous.

CM: And then we got nervous of her.

JG: It worked out really well. We all spent so much time together, trying to get money for the movie. And that was before I was even officially cast, but they were my friends and I wanted the movie to get made, so I did all these readings. We all worked together so much that it was like, once we got to shooting the movie, the camaraderie that you see was just…

DR: It certainly helped. You only had eighteen days (Rob Lowe was committed to another film after that).

JG: We had eighteen days, but we knew each other so well at that point, that it was a great working relationship. Nothing was taken too personally. Craig could say nasty things to us on the set, and we could say nasty things about him behind his back.

CM: Very nice. Like? Like? Like?

JG: (laughs)

CM: Obviously we didn’t have any time to rehearse, so instead of rehearsals we had just the fact that we knew each other and knew each other’s sense of humor.

DR: Long-time bull sessions?

CM: Yeah. It was good also because sometimes you’re friends with people, and then you think, well, I’m friends with you so I kind of forget how talented you are. I remember seeing Judy; it was actually because I was looking at one of the early movies that you did, and here’s Judy! I know Judy. And I’m watching this film and it’s like seeing a different person entirely. Because Judy, obviously, in real life is hideous, but on film is just beautiful.

DR: Actually, I thought you translated very well, Judy, you look much the same. You were in Three Kings, right?

JG: Yes.

DR: I wouldn’t have recognized you from that.

JG: Nobody does. They always go, “that was you?” Or they go, “ohhhhhh…”

At this point, Paget Brewster wandered over. Her first national exposure was as the girl that almost broke Joey and Chandler apart on Friends. Since then she has guested on several shows, and has a new sitcom on ABC this fall, currently titled People Who Fear People, though she told us it might also be known as The Trouble With Normal (Editor’s note: It was The Trouble With Normal. Paget most recently starred on Community, and is, of course, Sadie Doyle in The Thrilling Adventure Hour).

DR: This is for both of you. Craig’s out. He’s done. It’s been said today that after last night’s screening, you’re both going to have a lot of internet fan sites. So what rumors would you like people to spread about you?

PAGET BREWSTER: I have contracts out on the lives of people who consistently beat me in auctions on eBay. Futura One, I have a major problem with her, whoever she is.

DR: So you’re a big eBay fanatic?

JG: She is!

DR: What do you go for?

PB: Purses. Actually, I got everything I’m wearing on eBay, except for my underwear and my shoes.

JG: I like your shoes.

DR: I guess it’s somewhat of a relief to know that.

CM: Are you going to sell your underwear on eBay?

PB: Maybe someday. That’s my rumor. I will sell my underwear. I’m going to open a website.

JG: Paget, think of a rumor for me.

DR: Is the underwear indestructible?

PB: The underwear is absolutely indestructible. You can burn it, you can eat it.

JG: I’ll say for a fact that it is not.

CM: It tears at the slightest of touches. Just look at it and it falls apart.

Thankfully, everyone is laughing.

JG: That could be my rumor, that Paget and I…

CM: Ooh, that’s a good one.

PB: Let’s spread the rumor that we did it.

JG: Well, we’ve done three things together…

DR:That’s going to add at least five more websites dedicated to you.

JG: Fine avec moi and my boyfriend, he’ll have no problem with it, I’m sure.

PB: I can’t say I did it with your boyfriend and you.

JG: No, I just meant that he wouldn’t have a problem with that rumor.

PB: Oh. Okay.

JG: He’s Matt Keeslar. He’s in Dune (the upcoming Sci Fi mini-series). He plays Feyd, the Sting character.

DR: Yes, I’ve heard his name.

PB: Who’s playing Baron Harkonnen? Do you know?

DR: It’s a lot of European guys.

PB: So anyway, Judy and I got it on. We got really wasted and got it on. We did a movie together and one TV show together.

DR: Your TV series completely escaped me.

PB: It came and went. I think the final judgment on our show was…

DR: What was it called?

JG: Love and Money.

PB: “She’s rich, he’s poor, who cares?” They were going to burn it off this summer, and they just yanked it again.

DR: So it’s not like Freaks and Geeks, where you’re hoping for a huge fan outcry. You don’t want the Fox Family Network to pick it up?

PB: No. No. We knew there wouldn’t be an outcry, unfortunately.

JG: We kind of knew…

PB: We had a lot of fun doing it, though. I really liked everybody.

JG: I was really lucky to be able to work with people like, again, Paget and Swoosie (Kurtz) and Brian Doyle-Murray and David Ogden Stiers. They were fun people anyway…

DR: Paget, you started at KPIX in San Francisco. Didn’t you host a 2 a.m. talk show?

PB: No, it was 1:30 a.m. I actually started out on public access. I can’t remember which one. I did a show called Strange America which was interviews and sketches. Then I got an agent and got The Paget Show, which was when Ricki Lake did well and then everybody had a talk show. So we did it in San Francisco and did 65 shows. We did really well, but by the time we went back to sell it nationally, all the other shows that had gone on the air while we were figuring it out all tanked. So then we died. And then I moved to L.A. about four years ago.

DR: So it worked out.

PB: It worked out great so far.

DR: Did you grow up in San Francisco?

PB: No. I’m actually not from San Francisco. I’m from the east coast – Massachusetts. I moved to San Francisco with my drummer. We had a band together in New York. We knew everybody in New York and we broke up with the guys that we had been playing with for a long time. And everyone else that we really liked was already in other bands. We were living in a condemned building. We knew we were never going to get a bigger apartment. I had been bartending at Limelight, Palladium, and USA, so I knew that at bartending I was never going to make more money. It just was…we wanted to put another band together so we moved to San Francisco. Then I decided I wanted to act, and we broke up, because of course I was dating the drummer, which you’re not supposed to do. For a good reason.

DR: Drummers. We know all about drummers. Do you want to put a band together now that your profile is rising in the industry? And how would it compare to Tina Yothers’ band? Would you kick her ass?

PB: Oh. I don’t know. I haven’t seen her band. Tina Yothers? Tina Yothers? You know, if she’s still around, she could probably kick my ass.

DR: How about Dogstar?

PB: Dogstar I could take DOWN. (laughs) No, no. Now I’d put together a band that just covered Dean Martin songs and Louis Prima stuff.

DR: Cool.

Jamie Kennedy (best known as Randy in Scream) sticks his nose in. Jamie stars as Amok, and co-produced the film.

DR:Hey, I want to talk with you.

Jamie Kennedy:What? No, man, we gotta go.

Daily Radar quickly told Kennedy to find Bryan Singer and beg to play Nightcrawler in X-Men 2, because Amok looks just like him. He told us he’d do that, and then all of The Specials left the room. All we had left were our memories and our audiotape.

About Derek McCaw 2010 Articles
In addition to running Fanboy Planet, Derek has written for ActionAce, Daily Radar, Once Upon A Dime, and The Wave. He has contributed stories to Arcana Comics (The Greatest American Hero) and Monsterverse Comics (Bela Lugosi's Tales from the Grave). He has performed with ComedySportz and Silicon Valley Shakespeare, though relocated to Hollywood to... work in an office? If you ever played Eric's Ultimate Solitaire on the Macintosh, it was Derek's voice as The Weasel that urged you to play longer. You can buy his book "I Was Flesh Gordon" on the Amazon link at the right. Email him at