Ask anybody who knows me, and they’ll tell you that 80s is my favorite decade for pop culture. The only thing I like more than 80s pop culture is interviewing celebrities with retro credentials. So much of my viewing and listening habits have been informed by retro pop culture, especially that of the 80s, and to talk to the people who made retro pop culture so enjoyable gives me great joy. So it is with my first interview subject for Bilateral Warp, Catherine Mary Stewart.
I was impressed with Ms. Stewart’s work from the first time I saw “The Last Starfighter”, and I went on to enjoy more of her movies, like “Night Of The Comet” and “The Apple”, which I disliked as a young man, but grew to enjoy in my 30s. I recently had the opportunity to do an e-mail interview with Stewart, who was in all these movies, and I would like to share it with all of you. Let’s get our flashback on. Say hello to:
Catherine Mary Stewart!
Johnny: What were your pop-cultural likes growing up?
Catherine: I’m a child of the 70’s. I’m a big fan of the music of the time from EARTH, WIND AND FIRE, THE DOOBIE BROTHERS to THE EAGLES and BREAD. I loved my “flares” that were so long they were shredded at the bottom.
Johnny: What were your school days like?
Catherine: I was training as a dancer when I was in high school so that was my focus. I was also involved with theatre and loved that. School was OK, but I was focused mostly on dance.
Johnny: You were born Catherine Mary Nursall. Where did Stewart come from?
Catherine: When I got my first role as BIBI in THE APPLE, the director did not like the name Nursall. It was quite common for actors to change their name back then. He convinced me to change it, so I chose my mother’s maiden name to keep it in the family.
Johnny: What was your favorite memory of your time as a dancer before you were an actress?
Catherine: The first time I traveled with my dance company and performed professionally, I had an epiphany. I knew that this was what I wanted to do. Moving to London, England to study dance and performing arts in general was also a highlight.
Johnny: The Apple” was your first big feature. Do you feel that the film’s satire of the music industry was prescient towards the modern music scene?
Catherine: I think THE APPLE can be an analogy for lots of different things. The music industry specifically can be as corrupt as any industry when there are positions of power and so much money involved. It’s always been that way I believe.
Johnny: What were Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus (the film’s director and producer, respectively) like to work with?
Catherine: Menahem was a crazy, passionate director who knew what he wanted and had little patience for those who didn’t share his work ethic. I got my call time screwed up one day and was late on the set. He was so mad he said that he would make sure I never work in this business again!! Pretty cliche and it would have made for a pretty short career as an actress. Of course he didn’t follow through, but I didn’t screw up my call time again. Yoram is Menahem’s cousin. They were partners. He stuck with being the producer and wasn’t involved on the set directly. He was the calm one. These two men gave me the opportunity to create a career in acting. I am forever grateful.
Johnny: Will we ever hear your original vocal tracks for “The Apple”, or were they destroyed?
Catherine: I have no idea…
Johnny: What was your favorite part of working on “The Last Starfighter”?
Catherine: There was nothing I didn’t like about working on THE LAST STARFIGHTER. It was a joy from the start. Nick Castle, the director, was such a supportive, kind man. He created the most lovely tone on the set. Working with Lance Guest was a highlight for me in my career. He was so dedicated. We are still good friends to this day! I was working on DAYS OF OUR LIVES during the day and shooting THE LAST STARFIGHTER at night some days. As exhausted as I was I couldn’t wait to get out to the set for the movie. I loved it!
Johnny: If they had done a sequel to it, what do you think Alex and Maggie would be up to?
Catherine: Oooh, the magic question! Well there has been some discussion about what a sequel would entail. Are they in outer space maintaining peace? Are they back on earth and their past catches up with them? They would definitely be together and maybe have a couple of Last Starfighter offspring.
Johnny: You played the girlfriend of a gamer in “The Last Starfighter”, and played a gamer yourself in “Night Of The Comet”. Were you into videogames back in the 80s?
Catherine: Interestingly (or not), I wasn’t that into video games. I played my share of Pac Man/Woman, but that’s about as complicated as I got. It sure was fun playing the game in NOTC. I’m a tomboy at heart and very competitive, so it was fun to pretend that I knew what I was doing AND that I was really good at it!
Johnny: “Night Of The Comet” has retained quite a fanbase in the 30 years since its’ release. What do you suppose makes it so rewatchable?
Catherine: This is a unique take on the zombie genre movie. It can be scary but it also doesn’t take itself too seriously. Plus, I think that within it’s crazy unreal situation and circumstance the characters are so relatable. We were trying to portray real characters in an unreal situation. In a way these young women perhaps empower other young women. Yes, girls can look after themselves no matter what the catastophic situation. And these are qualities that pretty attractive to both sexes. This is a movie that caters to a younger audience. Perhaps it’s a movie that for the first time they are able to see it without their parents that isn’t a “family” movie. Maybe it becomes a part of that pivotal time in their lives that makes it memorable. I don’t know, I’m just psychoanalyzing… What is also cool is that fans that saw it in the 80’s and liked it, pass it down to their kids. So it’s life keeps extending.
Johnny: I thought you and Kelli Maroney, a previous interview subject of mine, looked great in “Night Of The Comet”. Many look back on 80s fashion and hair with regret, though. Why is that, and do you agree with
Catherine: At the time I loved the 80’s style myself. I loved the big hair, the shoulder pads, the wide belts… But in NOTC we don’t really cater to the edgier “80’s” fashion. I maybe had 2 wardrobe changes, and the outfits were very Reggie specific. Kelli wore a cheerleader’s outfit for the most part. We didn’t wear a lot of makeup. I guess where you really saw some 80’s fashion was in the scene where we raided the mall. In other words I don’t think we look too outdated or corny.
Johnny: In 1987, you starred in “Scenes From The Goldmine”. What was your favorite part of working on that movie?
Catherine: Living vicariously through my character. One of the best parts of being an actor is that you get to morph into these different characters, that have different interests, talents and personalities. In SCENES FROM THE GOLDMINE I got to be a rock and roller. How fun is that??
Johnny: If I have my information right, MGM currently has the rights to “Scenes From The Goldmine”. Any news on them possibly licensing it out to Shout! Factory for a DVD or Blu-Ray release?
Catherine: As an actor we are pretty much the last to know. I hope so! Let me know if you hear anything.
Johnny: Earlier in 1987, you had a starring role in the sci-fi horror movie “Nightflyers”, which was based on a novel by a pre-“A Song Of Ice And Fire” George R.R Martin, and co-starred 2 talented performers who have sadly passed on, Lisa Blount and James Avery. What are your favorite memories of them and the movie?
Catherine: Oh, it makes me so sad. It really reminds you of your own mortality when these fine people pass too soon. Live each day to the fullest and be kind. I just saw James inTHE STUNTMAN yesterday. He had one line in a restaurant, and he was memorable even with that. That is the sign of a talented man. Lisa and I worked on two movies together, NIGHTFLYERS and a TV movie called ANNIHILATOR. I was intimidated by Lisa when I first met her. I knew that she had won an Academy Award and nominated for awards several times, so I thought that she would be a snob. Nothing could be further from the truth. She was lovely, friendly and supportive. I wish we had stayed in closer contact. We used to run into each other at auditions. It was always great to see her. We’d have a good laugh. James Avery was also such a warm, generous man. He was always upbeat and had this infectious laugh that you couldn’t get enough of. I was so sad to hear of his death. I was also sad that our paths hadn’t crossed again after NIGHTFLYERS.
Johnny: What was the best part of working on “Weekend At Bernie’s”?
Catherine: I got to work with such a wonderful cast in NY and North Carolina. It was a funny movie so it was fun to be on the set. What I love nowadays is that it’s become such an iconic movie for that genre and gets mentioned all the time in sitcoms and talk shows. It’s become sort of a go to reference for guilty pleasure movies. It’s also stood the test of time. People of all ages seem to get a kick out of it. I feel lucky to have been a part of it.
Johnny: You weren’t in “Weekend At Bernie’s II”…Is there a reason why you weren’t in it, or was there any dialogue that may have mentioned why you weren’t in it?
Catherine: Apparently they wanted to go in a different direction. I’ve actually never seen II, but I like to think that Richard was pining for Gwen back home in the States.
Johnny: Looking at your IMDB page, it seems you did more TV movies in the 90s than theatrical movies. What was the reason behind that?
Catherine: As an actor you want to act. I don’t recall specifically choosing to do TV over film.
Johnny: What talent do you have that you haven’t had the opportunity to show off yet?
Catherine: I started out as a dancer. It may be too late now, but that was my first love and I wish I’d had a chance to show it off. I was pretty good in my day.
Johnny: How has the entertainment industry changed to you since the 80s?
Catherine: I don’t think it’s as much fun. The 80’s in general were a lot more fun. Now it’s all about your image or you as the product. I think as an actor today you need to be much more savvy, business wise. I don’t begrudge that. In a way I wish I had been more show biz savvy but it wasn’t as important back then. I do believe it’s aspect you need to learn if you want to pursue an acting career.
Johnny: What are your feelings on reality television?
Catherine: I think some reality shows are very entertaining. After all, that’s what it’s all about, entertainment. I think there is room for all kinds of entertainment.
Johnny: If you could go back to your youth with the knowledge you have now, would you do anything differently?
Catherine: No. I was very lucky in my youth, and had a wonderful time. I think I enjoyed it and appreciated it as much as anyone can when they are young. I have wonderful memories.
To speak to Catherine was truly wonderful for me. If you want more info on Catherine Mary Stewart and what she’s doing now, you can visit her website at //www.catherinemarystewart.com/ or visit her Facebook page (where all the great images you see in this article came from) at //www.facebook.com/catherinemarystewart.
I hope you all enjoyed flashing back with me. This is the first of many interviews to come. In coming weeks, expect to see interviews with Jamie Rose of “Falcon Crest” and “Lady Blue” and J.J Cohen of “Back To The Future” and “Fire With Fire”, and from there, the possibilities are endless.
Have a great evening, everybody.