Back when I wrote for RetroJunk, I had sent my next interview subject, Laurene Landon, a request for an interview, and even though she had initially declined it, I befriended her and her manager on Facebook. Her manager, Joe Williamson (who had also set up my interview last year with Mel Novak), and I discussed the possibility of an interview for Pop Geeks, and after several weeks of preparation, I spoke to Laurene on May 30th. Who is Laurene Landon, you ask? She’s a veteran actress who has appeared in cult film favorites like Roller Boogie, …All The Marbles and Maniac Cop, as well as more recent supporting roles in modern-day throwbacks to the exploitation era, movies like Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance and Hunter. I asked her about these projects and more, and I hope you all enjoy getting to know her as I Flashback again.
Say hello to Laurene Landon!
Laurene: Good morning!
Johnny: Hello, Laurene. It’s Johnny Caps.
Laurene: Hi! Good morning to you, sir. How are you?
Johnny: I’m doing good. Hope you are as well. Let me pull up my questions. Before anything, I would like to thank you for taking the time to do this.
Laurene: Thank you so very much for having me. I really appreciate it.
Johnny: No problem, and here we go. I always start off my interviews with these two questions. First, what were your pop-cultural likes growing up, like favorite movies and music?
Laurene: My favorite movies growing up had to be Wuthering Heights with Sir Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon, Random Harvest with Ronald Colman, anything with Marlon Brando and White Heat with James Cagney. My favorite group was The Bee Gees. I’m really dating myself.
Johnny: No, you’re not dating yourself. It’s all a matter of when you grew up.
Laurene: Did you like The Bee Gees?
Johnny: Yeah, they’re good.
Laurene: You’re probably very young, so you’re not familiar with their early works, like “I Started A Joke” and, to me, the greatest song of all time. It was called “First Of May”. It was the most beautiful song I ever heard in my life. (Singing) “When I was small, and Christmas tress were tall”…Have you ever heard that song, “First Of May”?
Johnny: No, but I’ll have to track it down, and might I say, you have a lovely singing voice.
Laurene: Oh, I don’t. Believe me, I don’t, but thank you for saying that. The Bee Gees I loved growing up, and Elvis, of course. I loved U2 as well, and still do.
Johnny: My next question is: What were your high school days like?
Laurene: I went to El Monte High School. I’m from Toronto, Canada. I was incredibly, impossibly shy in highs school, and I would just play classical piano so I could isolate myself. There was a lot of gang warfare at Almonte High School. Like I said, I was very scared and very taciturn and very shy. Because my dad loved classical music so much, like Franco Correlli and Jussi Bjorling and Mario Lanza and all the great tenors, I grew up loving classical music, so I would play classical music in junior high school and high school. At one point, my mom and dad were in a horrific car accident, and they used some of that money to buy me a piano at a thrift shop, so I continued to listen to the classics. I loved them so much. I didn’t understand the lyrics because they were in Italian or Swedish, but the music, to me, was so beautiful that I learned to play the music. I also loved Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. That’s what my high school days were basically like. My sister Kathy was very, very popular. She was prom queen. She was three years older and she was very, very popular. I don’t know how to explain it, but I was terrified of everybody, and I would eat lunch in the bathroom by myself because I was shy.
Johnny: I understand. You say you didn’t really enjoy your time as a model. Do you have any positive memories of your modeling days?
Laurene: The only positive memory, to be honest with you, was I got attention and I got recognized. It was, in retrospect, an absolutely false admiration, but I wanted so desperately for people to like me. That’s why I got into modeling, and also, the money was incredible. It was boring, though, and when I was in college at Yale…Just kidding! It was Cal State LA, and somebody discovered me there. Actually, it was somebody casting for a movie. I was taking some acting classes to try and get over my fear because I was always in fear. My mother told me, “You should take some acting classes and get out of your fear”. Somebody saw me, and so there was a movie being cast at MGM. I went to Las Vegas for the Miss Black Velvet Pageant, which I didn’t get, and I met a casting director up there, Jaki Baskow, who sent me to L.A to meet Robert Aldrich for …All The Marbles. I had done some movies prior to …All The Marbles, but this was an A-plus movie, so that’s how I got into acting.
Johnny: I actually do have some questions about your pre-All The Marbles acting. One of the question is: You played Marsha in a 1979 movie called Scoring, which, according to the IMDB, was your film debut. How did you land that job?
Laurene: Oh my gosh. You know something, Mr. Caps? Nobody has EVER asked me that question. I can’t believe you’re asking me this question. First of all, let me go way back. I was always obsessed with basketball, okay? With the NBA, with the Lakers…I got a call from an agent or somebody, I forget. They were casting for this movie starring ‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich. Boy, does that go back. Do you remember who he was?
Johnny: I’ve heard about him. Things, unfortunately, didn’t end well for him.
Laurene: No. He died suddenly at 40 years old, playing basketball on a court. He had congenital heart disease or something. When I had heard, at that time, that ‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich was going to be in this movie, I was already obsessed with basketball. I never missed a simulcast game on TV. I never missed radio broadcasts of the Lakers playing the Knicks, playing the Celtics, playing anybody. When I heard ‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich was going to be in a movie, they had auditions way out in Santa Monica at a high school. I was auditioning, and they wanted to see who could play basketball. Apparently, I played basketball the best. I always played basketball growing up. MY father did not want any of us children around boys at all. He wanted us to play sports, so I did play sports growing up to keep away from boys. Because of my love of basketball, I went in for this audition. Many girls auditioned for the different roles, and that’s how I finally ended up with the part of Marsha, who is a terrible basketball player, but she does make the saving grace score in the movie. It’s a terrible, terrible movie, to be honest with you, but that’s how that happened. It’s so odd that you ask me that question. As of late, I’ve been very grateful and I’ve been doing interviews every single day, sometimes three times a day, but no one has ever asked me that question. It brings back a lot of memories and I really appreciate you asking me that.
Johnny: Oh, no problem. Speaking of movies with physical activity, you were also a featured skater in Roller Boogie. Some people are able to engage in physical activities like roller-skating well into their older years. Can you still roller-skate?
Laurene: Yes! Yes, I just roller-skated in Sky. I have a movie out right now where I co-star with Diane Kruger, and Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead is the star. I play a wacky, over-the-hill showgirl on the strip of Vegas with two Elvis impersonators on either side of me. I had a very large part in the movie, but unfortunately, I was not in the editing room. Diane Kruger, when we were filming, said to me, “You’re amazing. You’re astonishing. You really bring my game up”, she said. My God! “You bring my game up”, because I do so much improv, improv all the time. I kept roller-skating. It’s so weird, because when I got on the roller skates to start practicing, I noticed I was very apprehensive. I was very nervous and scared. It soon came back to me, and a lot of the movie that has been cut out, actually, is I decorated my own skates. I bought my own roller skates and I spent three hours decorating them for the character. She’s a very flamboyant character, Charlene. It turned out, in the movie Sky, that I taught Diane Kruger, who played Romy, how to roller skate, and how to roller skate backwards. I’m going 15 miles an hour backwards, and Romy says, “How do you learn how to skate like that? How do you that? You’re an amazing skater, Charlene”. I say, “I was Miss Roller Derby Queen in Kansas City”, and as I said that, I hit a pothole! This wasn’t supposed to happen. As I’m skating backwards, and she’s running with me and we’re speaking, as soon as I said that? The location people, when they blocked off the street in Vegas, did not check the street carefully, so I hit a pothole as I said that line and I went flying up in the air. I went flying backwards and landed on my back. They got the entire thing on film. I did a lot of spins in the movie. I did a lot of things on my toes on the skates. When I was up at the Toronto International Film Festival, I was decimated emotionally, to say the least, because everything I did with the skating was cut out. Diane was wearing my skates because she wanted to. In the scene, she didn’t like her skates, so she wore my skates instead. In the movie, Diane’s wearing my roller skates, and all the hilarious stuff that I did was cut out. Fabienne (Berthaud), the director, claims she’s going to send me the footage, but it’s been months, so I don’t know. The Hollywood Reporter just said, “(My) performance is so riveting and mesmerizing that you wish the entire movie was about Laurene Landon”. Just to hear that, and RogerEbert.com’s saying that I gave a stand-out performance, I’m very grateful for that.
Johnny: To go back to 1981 and …All The Marbles, had you seen any professional wrestling matches growing up in Canada, and if so, did they influence your portrayal of your character Molly?
Laurene: No! Absolutely not! As a matter of fact, the wrestling we did, and the movie itself, was ahead of its’ time. It was only a few years later that Cyndi Lauper started the Rock ‘N’ Wrestling Connection, and then wrestling became very popular. At the time we made …All The Marbles, which was retitled The California Dolls for Europe, it was a bomb here, opening up against the World Series. I didn’t even go to the theater the night that it opened. It was playing in Westwood, but I stayed home. Everybody stayed home, including myself, to watch the Dodgers play in the World Series. The head of publicity at MGM got fired for that.
Johnny: …All The Marbles was produced by MGM, and would later end up owned by Turner Entertainment, which, for a time, also owned World Championship Wrestling.
Laurene: I didn’t know that.
Johnny: As there was often overlap between wrestling and film on the Turner networks throughout the 80s and 90s, like Roddy Piper appearing on a Monstervision screening of They Live, was there any thought given to having you or Vicki Frederick appear on WCW or NWA programming broadcast on the Turner networks?
Laurene: No, but I will tell you this: The director/writer of one of the films I shot in Spain, called Hundra, created a show called G.L.O.W: Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling because of …All The Marbles, because of my character Molly. He created a character called The California Doll for his show G.L.O.W, and he made a killing off that show. I met all the girls in Vegas about 15 or 20 years ago, and they were all wonderful. As far as wrestlers go, I never met any of the wrestlers, never had any influence on the wrestlers. MGM tried to get wrestlers to become wrestlers, but they couldn’t find any wrestlers that could act. This was what they told us. They saw 2000 girls altogether. They went the other way and tried to find actors they could train to wrestle. I happened to be one of the 2000 girls towards the end, actually. To make a long story longer, I ended up getting the part of Molly and Vicki Frederick ended up getting the part of Iris. I had no influence from wrestlers. I didn’t know any wrestlers, honestly, or anything about wrestling, except that we were to play wrestlers, we had to do our own wrestling and nobody was to double us. That was a prerequisite upfront by Mr. Robert Aldrich, our director. He said, “You’re not going to be doubled, so if you think you’re going to be doubled, get out right now”. Vicki and I went and wrestled during the Actor’s Strike, which was, of course, illegal. We weren’t getting paid or anything, but we continued to wrestle with Mildred Burke and wrestlers from Mexico who were absolutely astonishing.
Johnny: Cool. In 1982, you played Velda in I, The Jury. Was that a one-shot movie or was it intended to start a series of Mike Hammer movies?
Laurene: Well, it was based on the book, of course, and oddly enough, Robert Aldrich, who directed me in …All The Marbles, had done Kiss Me Deadly, which was a Mike Hammer film, I believe. There was no sequel mentioned at the time. I starred with Armand Assante. He was Mike Hammer, of course.
Johnny: I know that the movie is going to be released on Blu-Ray soon by Kino Lorber Studio Classics. Perhaps they might reach out to you for an interview. They’ve been doing great jobs with titles from 20th Century Fox and MGM and New World Entertainment.
Laurene: I would love to do commentary if they were interested. Are they looking to ask Armand or Barbara Carrera or myself or anybody from the film?
Johnny: I often post on Kino Lorber Studio Classics’ Facebook fan page, making notes of titles I’d like to see them release, and I could pass along a mention that you’re interested in participating in extras. I don’t know what good it would do, but I could give it a shot.
Laurene: I wasn’t aware of that. If you’re in touch with them, I’d love to do a commentary or whatever they’d like me to do, if they’re interested.
Johnny: I’ll mention it when I speak to Joe again.
Johnny: From Los Angeles, where you’d been filming several of your early movies, you traveled to Italy for the title role in Hundra. What was your favorite part of working on that movie?
Laurene: I was in Spain. It wasn’t Italy. It was Spain.
Johnny: I’m sorry. I was thrown off by some of the names involved in the movie.
Laurene: You’re right. Most of them were Italian, absolutely. My favorite part was being able to go to, and have the ability to make a film, in a country such as Spain. That was so incredibly beautiful. They were positively the nicest people I think I’ve ever met. The most kindest, the most generous, just loving, loving, wonderful people. The desert where we filmed was incredibly beautiful. We filmed at a place called El Condor, where my friend, Larry Cohen, had a set built years before for a movie of the same name, El Condor. We went to Almovia and Segoyez, up in the mountains. We pretty much filmed where they shot all the Conan movies. I played a female Conan. I was so athletic growing up, and still am, actually. I thank my father for that. Were it not for my father, I would not have excelled in sports or had many, many trophies, which I, of course, lost over the years. That all perpetuated the ability to do these action-type movies that I am known for.
Johnny: What do you think has made movies like Hundra so memorable to fans of 80s cinema?
Laurene: I think that, in the case of Hundra, people expected it to be a ruthless machismo kind of film, but in reality, the objective of the director and the writer, John Goff, was to empower women. It was during the Dark Ages, when women were held as slaves, so to speak. Hundra, the woman warrior…Her tribe was basically wiped out. I don’t know if you saw the film, but she meets a woman, Chrysula, an elderly sagacious woman, who tells her she’s got to go to this place called The Town Of The Bull, and they’re all pigs. She finally meets a wonderful doctor that she ends up having a baby with. The movie was about empowerment during the Dark Ages, the dawn of women’s civilization, basically. Women having the guts, women being empowered to have strength…A lot of people went in thinking that the movie was just going to be a T&A movie. It wasn’t at all until maybe the end. It took a stupid turn at the end that I thought was ridiculous, in my personal opinion. All the bad guys get killed.
Johnny: A year later, you reunited with Matt Cimber, and again took the title role in Yellow Hair And The Fortress Of Gold. The IMDB says it was a follow-up to Hundra, so were Hundra and Yellow Hair supposed to be the same character?
Laurene: Absolutely not. I’m surprised that you say that.
Johnny: I’m sorry. I was going by what the Internet Movie Database said.
Laurene: The only relation they have is that they were both shot in Spain. Hundra was shot in El Marrillo and Segovia, up in the mountains, and Yellow Hair And The Fortress Of Gold was pretty much shot in just El Marrillo, in the desert. They were two completely separate movies. There was absolutely no connection whatsoever. In Yellow Hair, I played a half-breed Indian. Nothing to do with Hundra. Hundra was a period piece, as I say, back in the Dark Ages.
Johnny: I’m sorry. Like I said, I was going by the IMDB’s Movie Connections. I guess whoever was doing the Movie Connections for Hundra made a mistake there. I apologize.
Laurene: No. Please don’t apologize. It’s not your fault at all. That’s unacceptable to apologize.
Johnny: Moving on, you starred as Vena in the Cannon Films release America 3000. 28 years later, in the documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films, you set an MGM/UA Big Box of America 3000 on fire. Was that showmanship, or a genuine reflection of your feelings about both Cannon Films and America 3000?
Laurene: Well, I did it for two reasons. I did it because I had a sardonic anger, number one. I’m nuts. I’m known for that. I did that to make it hopefully funny. Also, there was a bit of a deeper meaning about Cannon Films in general, about how everybody, not myself, but how everybody was treated. They didn’t pay much. I went on strike for the crew during the film. They weren’t paying the crew. The horses were gone, and the crew was not getting paid. I went on strike for the crew at lunch one day. Most people don’t know this. Itzik Kol, one of the producers who weighed a good, I’d say, 360 pounds or something like that, he knew something was up. He had been told by somebody, I don’t know who, that somebody was on strike, possibly because the crew was not getting paid. The crew had families, and I thought it was very unfair that I was getting paid, and these poor souls were depending on Cannon Films to feed their family. At lunch, Itzik Kol showed up in the distance with two gentlemen from Cannon Films, and the director, David Engelbach, was standing there. He had no clue, but the crew had told me what was going on earlier during the previous day. I was getting more and more enraged. I was being treated to this massive trailer, and they were eating outside in 120 degree weather at the Dead Sea, S’Dom. I had this massive trailer, so I invited everybody in my trailer to have lunch, because the heat was intolerable. I went on strike. I yelled at Itzik Kol, “I want you to know I quit!”. David Engelbach, the director, was stunned and he said, “What’s going on?”. I was shaking because this was it. I was sure I was going to be fired, but that was okay with me. I said I quit, and I screamed at Itzik Kol, “You have no heart. You have a cash register where your heart should be. I quit! Pay the crew! I quit until you pay the crew!”. I walked off the set shaking. I don’t think anybody saw me shaking, but I was shaking terribly. My driver was by my trailer. He took me back to the Mariah Gardens Hotel. On one hand, I was terrified of the repercussions I didn’t know about. On the other hand, I felt better in my heart about what I did. I was hoping that, because they had shot 10 or 11 weeks of film at the time, that maybe it would be too late for them to hire another bimbo because they were too cheap. I mean, you know what I’m saying about how cheap they were? That night, I got a phone call from Itzik Kol. He said, “Laurene, Laurene! My actress, my star! I bring you to my country and you do this to me”. I said, “Pay the crew! Did you pay the crew?”. He said no, and I hung up the phone. 20 minutes later, someone slipped a call sheet underneath the door for the next day. I wrote, “Fuck you, pay the crew!”, shoved it back under the door and yelled, “Pay the crew!”. About half-an-hour later, Itzik Kol called again and said, “Laurene, I want you to know I’m very upset with you, American actress! I’m very upset, but I want you to know I paid the crew. The crew all got paid, but when I find out which of the crew told you they’re not getting paid, and I WILL find out, they will never work again, EVER! They will NEVER work again!”. I said, “As long as the crew got paid”. He said, “Yes, the crew got paid”. I got a call early in the morning and I went on the set the next day. I walked to my trailer when I got out of my car, and the entire crew was lined up and clapping and calling me Norma Rae. I didn’t do it for that purpose, believe me. That was not my intention. I had no ulterior motive, none whatsoever because I was already getting paid. I didn’t do it for any glory or anything. I did it because I was so angry for these poor people. The shekel was devaluing every day I was staying in Israel, which was quite a long time, 4 or 5 months, and I knew these wonderful, kind, loving people. Most of them had families. I did it because I wanted to make sure they had food on the table. I didn’t care at that point if I lost my job or anything. I guess my anger eclipsed my desire to complete the film, but they did get paid and they called me Norma Rae every day after that. I said, “Don’t call me Norma Rae. You would’ve done the same thing, I’m sure”. That’s why I burned the video, and people talk about it a lot. Apparently, they say it’s the craziest thing in Electric Boogaloo. That, for me, is the core reason I did it. Sure, I did it to be a wiseacre, but there had to be a reason to be a wiseacre, to do what I did and to take that to the studio. I had a reason and a motive to do it, and I didn’t elaborate at the time as to why I did it, but that’s the core reason why.
Johnny: That’s an amazing story.
Laurene: I don’t think it’s amazing, but I’m sure you would’ve done the same thing.
Johnny: Coming back to America, you played Theresa Mallory in Maniac Cop. A memorable fusion of action and horror, how did it feel to be filming a story like that in New York City, which, in the late 80s, could get more violent than a movie ever could?
Laurene: Well, at the time there WAS a lot of violence going on in New York. We blended right in, and I even told the director we should change the movie to Constitutional Rites, because there was so much killing going on, so many murders going on in New York. We were filming in different places. They pretty much tried to keep the actors isolated from where there was violence going on, but I was well aware of what was going on by TV and reading papers and so forth. We shot at Bear Mountain and Astoria Studios and all over Manhattan. There was a lot of crime going on. I got purse-snatched twice while I was there. Just walking through a store one time, and taking a walk through Central Park, I got my purse grabbed from me two different times. Somebody jokingly said in Central Park, “Well, now you’re a bona fide New Yorker. You just got robbed. You’re not a New Yorker until you get robbed”. I had said, “Oh my God, I’m a visitor here! I’m a visitor here! What do I do?”. He said, “Where do you live?”. I said, “L.A”, and he said, “Well, now you’re a bona fide New Yorker, because you just got robbed. You just got attacked”. (Laughing)
Johnny: I’ve had this fear of New York City ever since my dad died.
Laurene: When did your dad pass away? I’m so sorry.
Johnny: That was 1995. I was 12 years old.
Johnny: I always felt safe when I was in the city with him, but after he died, I didn’t feel safe, and truthfully, a lot of my views of New York City have been shaped by movies of the 80s like Maniac Cop. Even though they say New York City is cleaned up and Disneyfied and Times Square is a nice place to be, I still have kind of a hard time believing that.
Laurene: Do you live in New York now?
Johnny: I live in Upstate New York.
Laurene: Oh, near Bear Mountain? Where?
Johnny: Orange County, New York. I’m simaltaneously upstate from New York City and downstate from Albany. I’m on the border of New Jersey in Greenwood Lake.
Laurene: That must be beautiful.
Johnny: It is.
Laurene: Upstate New York is gorgeous. We filmed a lot of I, The Jury up there. The car chases scenes, with Chuck Norris’ brother, Aaron Norris, were filmed up at Bear Mountain. It’s one of the most beautiful places I ever saw in my life.
Johnny: It definitely is. Well, enough about me. Let’s go back to you: There was a long break in your career between 1990’s Maniac Cop II and the 2006 Masters Of Horror episode “Pick Me Up”. As your longtime collaborator Larry Cohen directed that episode of Masters Of Horror, was it he who inspired you to make your return to the business, or was it something else?
Laurene: It was something else. My mother became very ill, and so I opted to get out of the business and take care of my mother. I’m not going to go into what happened with her, but she became very ill and ultimately passed away. Very soon after that, my father suffered a cardiac arrest up in Vancouver, Canada. He was dead for 13 minutes. This was 1998. My mother was ill for years before that. I felt it was much more important to be with my family, to take care of my mother and father. Movies will come and go, but you only have one mother and one father. My dad had cardiac arrest, and he was dead for 13 minutes. I kept playing opera for him. I kept playing Franco Correlli. He was dead, and he came back. The neurologist came in and was saying, “He’s got a pulse, but he’s going to be a cabbage”. I said, “No, he’s not!”. I just kept playing opera for him and talking to him, and he came back. He then got bladder cancer. He was at the hospital. It was just a bladder infection, but I was doing research at the hospital and at my aunt’s house, all the Texas Institute medical research I could get my hands on. I told the doctor, “See if he has bladder cancer, prostate cancer or kidney cancer. I think he has bladder cancer”. Ultimately, I was screaming and threatening, and I had him taken by ambulance to St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver. I’d gone there, but they said the B.C Ministry, a kind of social system, was in virtual collapse. They couldn’t do anything, but I met a wonderful cardiologist who rushed him into St. Paul’s Hospital. I met a wonderful cardiologist, Alan Rabinowitz, whom I’ll never forget, and he said, “They’re closing down wings of every hospital in the city. There’s no nursing staff, so I want you to go around the block. I want you to rush your father in and say he’s having chest pains”. I said, “He IS having chest pains. He’s bleeding terribly”. He said, “Rush around the corner, and you come back. Come back”. My father was having chest pains because he had a cardiac arrest, of course, and so I rushed him back into the hospital. I took him to the hospital, and they could see the blood running down his legs. It was bladder cancer. I got out of the business because I wanted to take care of my father, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Johnny: I apologize. I didn’t mean to make you cry.
Laurene: I’m fine. I’m not crying. You know, it just brings back memories of how badly he was treated. Back in my home country, they kept calling him a cabbage, and they kept telling me to go home. I wouldn’t go home, and at Halloween of 1998, I snuck him across the border for bladder surgery by Stephen Sachs here at Cedars-Sinai. I took care of him until he passed away. Oddly enough, he caught MRSA in the hospital in California. He survived the cardiac arrest and he survived transitional carcinoma. He survived it, and then he ends up dying from a fall. He had a fall. They rushed him to the hospital. We were at a park and he fell. We rushed him to the nearest hospital because he was bleeding from the inside of his eye. We took him to Glendale Memorial Hospital, and five days later he was dead from MRSA. You can imagine this was the most shocking thing to me that happened in my life. I doubt I’ll ever get over it because I was much closer to my father than to my mother. My mother stole all my money, basically. She just did, and that’s okay, but my father never took a dime from anybody. I helped him as best I could. Well, you know. You lost your father, and there’s no way to replace a mother or father. No matter what they did to you, they’re still your mother and father. That’s what happened.
Johnny: I see. Let’s lighten things up. As mentioned earlier, one of the projects that you’ve been very proud to speak of has been Sky. What made that project so special for you?
Laurene: What made it so special was I had the ability to work with Diane Kruger. I always wanted to work with Diane Kruger. I always thought she was a very talented, beautiful actress. There’s a lot of beautiful actresses, of course. It’s L.A, but I she speaks 5 or 6 different languages, and I always admired her tenacity. I always admired the fact that she came from Germany, and she spoke so many languages. I don’t know why. It wasn’t a physical attraction at all. Itw as nothing like that. It was just her tenacity, and the fact that she spoke so many languages. She was on a series called The Bridge. That happened to be my favorite show. Larry Cohen and I would watch it every single week, and we just loved the show. She was the star of it. She played an agent in New Mexico. We thought it would go on and on and on, but the show was cancelled after about a year-and-a-half. I was decimated emotionally, and so was Larry, because that was our favorite show on cable. I asked about that when we were in her trailer during a break. She said that she was kind of glad it was over because it was so hot in New Mexico. She didn’t really miss it that much. She is a lovely person, and a very upbeat person. I’m just very grateful that I had the opportunity to work with her.
Johnny: Okay. You played Detective Higgins in Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance. Had you seen the original Samurai Cop before signing on for this movie?
Laurene: No. Had you?
Johnny: I hadn’t seen it before I backed it on Kickstarter, but based on the trailer, it seemed intriguing, and it seemed like Samurai Cop 2 was a blast to film. Was it?
Laurene: It was an absolute blast to shoot. To be honest with you, I can’t tell you what exactly the story’s about, since there were so many different twists and turns. It’s almost like an acid trip. I know the movie takes place 25 years later than the original, with Frank Marshall teaming up with his old pal to solve a series of assassinations and so forth, but the movie is sort of like an acid trip. Did you see it?
Johnny: Yeah, I have. It was quite fun.
Laurene: Yeah, it was a blast working on it, and Gregory Hatanaka, the incredible director, is a visionary. He works outside the box, obviously. He did a homage to Hundra and had me in my Hundra costume, or a facsimile. By the way, I’ve been offered $10,000 for that costume on the Internet. People have written me on my website. Two different people wanted to buy that costume I wore in Samurai Cop for $10,000. I don’t know what to do, but Gregory’s quite a visionary. He’s one of these directors that’s the reason why I love doing independent films. It’s because the directors that do these films have a personal artistic vision to make the story work. They allow you to bring what you have to the table. They’re amenable to your ideas, your suggestions, and they inevitably say yes, which is not the case in big-budget films that I have made in the past. There’s a window. You have to stay within the window. You have to adhere to the script. You practically have to adhere to the syllables. In independent films, they acquiesce to you, as long as it has to do with the story, of course, putting it into your own words to make it feel that it’s more natural. They’re very open to improvisation, because I do a lot of improv. That’s what I love about independent films. I do a tremendous amount of improv. I don’t come to the set unless I’ve got 5 or 6 improvisational things I’m going to do in my back pocket, so I’m very grateful to independent filmmakers for that. Like I said, they always work outside the box with their own particular vision. I just love making independent films.
Johnny: Cool. Would you ever consider appearing in a Maniac Cop/Samurai Cop crossover if such a thing were to be created?
Laurene: Sure! Could that happen?
Johnny: I don’t know. When I wrote the question, it was just something that came to mind, being as you starred in two movies that both had the word “cop” in the title, both of which were really over-the-top movies. I guess I just thought it would be interesting to see what would happen if the two were mashed together.
Laurene: That’d be interesting, yeah. If anybody could do, Gregory Hatanaka could do it because he’s such an innovative director. I mean, a lot of people don’t understand his work, and you have to see his movies sometimes two or three times to get it, but I think that’d be a great idea. Sure. I’d love to do it.
Johnny: Alright. You have seven projects in various states of production. With that in mind, what’s your idea of the perfect day off?
Laurene: Being with my pit bulls. I love pit bulls. I rescue pit bulls. I wish people would please go to Circle L. It’s in Prescott, Arizona, and it’s run by Jenny Alberti, one of my very best friends in the world. There’s hundreds of dogs, most of them pit bulls. That’s where I got my pit bulls. She’s a remarkable human being, a remarkable soul. I love spending time with my dogs. One of them survived cancer, carcinoma. He’s got 80 stitches in him as we speak, and he’s home. I love spending time with my dogs and walking my dogs. I have two pit bulls, Gizzard and Moses. I have kitties, too, and I love watching hockey! I’m obsessed with hockey.
Johnny: What would you say has been the biggest change in the entertainment industry between 1979 and 2016?
Laurene: Digital. The reason I say that is because, in the past, I’d say it would take about three to six months to shoot a movie. Now it takes about three weeks to shoot a movie. What happened with digital is: It’s great for the movie makers. They’re getting more bang for their buck, obviously, but digital is deleteable, and film is forever, I feel. I love film, absolutely love film. Actors will understand this, of course. What they do is they block your scenes before you shoot your scenes. They call you, and they say, “We’re going to shoot your scenes in two days”. You have to do 9 or 10 scenes a day. You have to have the entire script memorized. Does that make sense?
Laurene: Instead of memorizing three or four or five pages overnight or a few days before, you have to have the entire script memorized on those two or three days that you’re going to shoot. You’ll be shooting 8 or 9 scenes a day. That makes it very, very difficult for actors. It’s apparently the way the business is now. I don’t like it myself at all. I love film! I always have and I always will. If you ask me what the biggest change is, that’s my opinion. My line on the industry is that it’s so digital. I can’t stand CGI, and to be honest with you, all these comic book movies? I don’t like them. Even though I have a comic book out right now called The Praying Mantis, which Larry Cohen and I have written, these franchise movies? The studios only want to make $200 million dollar movies, at least now. They want to make franchise movies, stuff like Iron Man and Captain America: Civil War and so forth. To me, it’s basically the same movie with a different title, but that’s my personal opinion again. That’s what they want to make, and as you can see, that’s what’s bringing in all the bucks. It’s all about accounting at the studios. It’s all about revenue. It’s not so much about story like in the old days. In the old days, you’d have a beautiful story, like in Random Harvest or Wuthering Heights or White Heat with James Cagney. There was always a story, but now it’s just good against evil, and, of course, good is going to prevail. You also have the obligatory car chases, of course. I tend to love going to lower-budget films, independent films, movies that most people wouldn’t go to see, like at the Laemmle Theatre. I just love movies with stories that are unpredictable, that you don’t know how it’s going to end. Does that make sense?
Johnny: Yeah, that makes sense. Now I come to the question I end every interview with, and it’s this: If you could go back to your youth with the knowledge that you have now, would you do anything differently?
Laurene: Yes. I had the perseverance. There’s two things you need in this industry to be a success. I was told this by somebody at CBS a long time ago. It was at a charity event that Bob Hope was sponsoring. This gentleman, who was the head of CBS, said to me, at the time I think I was 18 or 19 years old, “There’s two things in this industry that you must have. You have to be ruthless, and you have to have the ability to make everyone love you”. He said to me, “I’ve been sitting here with you for four hours, and you have the ability, whether you do it on purpose or not”, which I didn’t and I don’t. It’s just me. He said, “You have that ability, but you are not ruthless, and you have to be ruthless in this industry”. If I went back, I wouldn’t be ruthless, but I think I would persevere more as far as getting more pictures taken. At the time, my agents would tell me, “You need to get more pictures taken”. I think I would’ve gotten my demo reels done, which I eschewed at all cost. I didn’t do that, unless I was really pressured by ICM or different agents at the time. I had the passion, but at the time, I didn’t have the perseverance. In this industry, I feel there are two things you need to have. One is passion and the other is perseverance.
Johnny: I see. Good advice. Well, that about does it for my questions. I want to thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to speak to me.
Laurene: I want to thank you so much for interviewing me, and for asking me questions that, honestly, nobody has ever asked me before. I really had to think about some of these questions that you asked because no one’s asked them before. You have to go back into your memory to reverie and to think, because sometimes you go on autopilot when people ask you questions. I really appreciate the questions that you asked me, because you really made me think about things in the past that I never even thought of, so thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.
Johnny: You’re welcome.
Laurene: Please put a big thank you to my manager, Joe Williamson. He’s really responsible for helping resurrect my career. I know today’s Memorial Day, an observance for fallen soldiers, and with my roommate, we’re going to the National Cemetery to lay some flowers on our fallen soliders. I just have to give so much credit to Joe Williamson. He’s one of the most amazing and completely incredible passionate souls I have ever met in my entire life. He’s honestly too good for this industry, too good for this business. His heart is too big for this business.
Johnny: I think he’s a great guy as well, and I’ll be sure to mention that. Well, that about does it, and once more, I thank you.
Laurene: Thank you, and a very blessed Memorial Day to you.
Laurene: As I say on this day in my house, it’s the Tomb Of The Unknown Actress.
Johnny: Well, thank you very much, and have a good afternoon.
Laurene: Thank you so much. God bless you. Thank you.
Johnny: Okay, bye.
Laurene: Bye bye!
Thanks as always for flashing back with me, and keep your eyes on this site for more journeys into pop culture’s past, distant and recent, with the Flashback Interview. Have a good day, everyone.