While I know most tend to associate actor Zach Galligan with the movie 'Gremlins,' for me growing up I was always a bigger fan of his portrayal of Mark in the 'Waxwork' movies. After all, he got to fight all the classic Universal monsters, go up against the Waxwork proprietor played by the great David Warner and was friends (and potentially more?) with mega-babes Michelle Johnson (China) and Deborah Foreman (Sarah). I've always had a great deal of affection for the first 'Waxwork' because not only is it a perfect blend of horror and comedy, but because it was also an all out monster mash that didn't skimp out on the monsters or the gore. Writer/director Anthony Hickox (who also later helmed 'Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth,' 'Warlock: Armageddon,' and 'Sundown: A Vampire In Retreat') teamed up once more with Galligan for 'Waxwork II: Lost In Time,' a truly gonzo horror/comedy with crazy homages to everything from 'Godzilla' to 'Dawn Of The Dead' to 'The Haunting' and features a stand out comedic performance by 'Evil Dead' veteran Bruce Campbell. Needless to say, when I discovered that both 'Waxwork' movies would not only be on FEARnet's linear channel and VOD service, but also streaming for free on our website this week, I knew I had to reach out to Zach Galligan to reflect on these two fun genre flicks. So check out our full chat below, and after that be sure to stream 'Waxwork' and 'Waxwork II: Lost In Time' by clicking on the titles.
FEARnet: First off, can you tell us how this project came to you? From what I understand, writer/director Anthony Hickox specifically wanted you for this movie?
Zach Galligan: Yes. Tony Hickox who directed both 'Waxwork' movies was an enormous 'Gremlins' fan, so for whatever reason, he desperately wanted me to do the movie. So we did one of those things you hear about all the time in Hollywood where the director took me out to lunch and begs you to do the movie. We went to Hugo’s on Santa Monica Blvd and we sat down and had a nice meal and he basically explained the whole movie to me, telling me who some of the cast was going to be, and so-and-so was going to do the production design and he brought along some sketches & drawings from the vampire sequence. I’ve said this before about Tony, but it’s true – the guy can sell ice cubes to Eskimos. I mean, he really is an excellent salesman. In all honesty, I took the meeting as a courtesy. I had absolutely zero intention of doing this movie. The dialogue had sounded like it had been written by a British person, it didn’t sound like American people speaking at all, to which Tony said, "I know, I know. Don’t worry, we’ll fix that. That’s why I’m hiring good actors, because all of that dialogue is going to change." Every objection I had he said he was going to change, and everything I thought was great, he would say, "yeah, yeah. It’s all there." So, basically I didn’t really want to do it, but he sold me on it. And I’m glad I did it because I find it to be a deeply strange movie and I actually like doing strange movies as opposed to straight ahead disposable uninteresting movies.
'Waxwork' fits into that rare category of the “horror/comedy” hybrid and it pulls it off so well. I’m surprised that aren’t more of these “monster mash” type movies; films where all the monsters get to play in them. For you personally, did you have a favorite monster growing up? Anything in particular that you were excited to see incorporated into this movie?
It’s funny you said that, it’s a really good question. When I was a kid, there was a movie I was obsessed with that was all Claymation and I’m sure you’re familiar with it. It’s called 'Mad Monster Party.' When you’re 4 or 5, that movie is about as cool as it gets! You have to remember, I’m going to be 50 next Valentine’s Day, so I’ve been around for a while. That means I grew up essentially in the late 60’s watching Chiller Theatre here in New York, WPIX Channel 11 with the hand coming out of the swamp. I was raised on 'The Blob,' 'Godzilla' movies, 'The Crawling Eye.' Hammer horror movies. 'Frogs,' 'Night Of The Lepus,' 'The Incredible Two Headed Transplant.' All these schlocky 70’s movies which I still kind of love because they were such a big part of my childhood. I was a huge horror fan growing up. So when it got time to do 'Waxwork,' what happened was – I was 23 and I felt like I had grown out of the monster movies. But once I got on the set and saw the werewolves and all the special FX and the vampires and the beautiful vampirella’s, and of course the zombie sequence! You have to remember back in 1987 there really weren’t that many popular zombie movies. There were the George Romero movies of course, and there was 'Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things,' but that was pretty much it. So when we did the zombie sequence with the hand and me in my Roger Daltrey wig, they sprayed my hair blonde and I had my Sting look going. You can’t even really tell because I believe that sequence was in black & white, isn’t it? If you’d seen me on set, you would’ve been howling with laughter. So what happened was, I thought I was over horror movies and beyond it and then we started shooting 'Waxwork' and I realized how much I loved it again. It reinvigorated and reinstated in me my love of horror movies. Once I saw what they were going to do with the monsters in 'Waxwork,' I started to realize how cool it was going to be. You can look at the movie and spot all sorts of cool monsters in there, some of which aren’t name checked but if you like Hammer movies for example, you’ll spot some fun stuff. I just really enjoyed that movie experience a lot more than I thought I was going to.
It’s interesting to look back at the filmography of Anthony Hickox because as a fan I know him for a lot of the horror movies he was doing in the late 80’s/early 90’s. 'Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth,' 'Warlock: The Armageddon,' etc. But 'Waxwork' was his debut feature as a director. Can you talk about working with a first time director on this? Any reluctance considering this was his first feature length film?
Well, there was reluctance on my part, but again the way he managed to alleviate my fears was he told me all about his movie bloodlines through his family. His father was Douglas Hickox who had directed 'Theatre Of Blood,' 'Entertaining Mr. Sloane;' he did 'Brannigan' with John Wayne. His mother Anna Coates won an Oscar for editing a little movie called 'Lawrence Of Arabia.' His great grandfather was J. Arthur Rank who was the founder of the Rank Organisation. He came from an unbelievable film bloodline. Plus, because he knew he was going to have to overcome some hesitancy, he had directed a short film which was actually quite good that he showed me called 'Rock A Bye Baby.' It was designed to show that he knew what he was doing. So I saw the short and it was very distinguishable from most of the films being made at the time and it had some stylistic things in it that he had borrowed from other cool filmmakers and made his own. So that’s how he convinced me. He showed me a piece of his work and it was good.
For me, growing up in that era of movies around the time that ‘Waxwork’ came out, you couldn’t not have a crush on Michelle Johnson ('Blame It On Rio') or Deborah Foreman ('Valley Girl'). The movie’s got this great ensemble group here. Did they cast you guys together by testing you in pairs? Did you guys have much time to rehearse or get to know each other beforehand? Because it seemed like you were all old friends.
We did basically sell the idea that we were great friends because we didn’t really have more than a day or two of rehearsal. I don’t know if you know this, Tony had handpicked Michelle and Deborah himself and during the filming of the movie was basically sort of dating both of them at the same time. Or attempting to.
So that was… should we say an interesting development throughout the shooting of the film. Um, but hey, we’re talking about something from 26 years ago. That was Tony being Tony. He’s a mischievous guy. Anyone that knows Tony knows that having fun was always high on list of priorities, not that he wasn’t a hard worker, but he worked hard and partied harder.
Obviously Deborah didn’t come back for the sequel 'Waxwork II: Lost In Time.' Monika Schnarre took over the role of Sarah. I was wondering if you could shed some light on why Deborah didn’t reprise the role?
Well, I think I just answered that and solved that mystery! (Laughs)
(Laughs) Well, it’s always daunting for any actress to take over a role originated by someone else. Can you talk a bit about working with Monika and maybe if there was any advice you offered to make her feel comfortable stepping into someone else’s shoes?
Well, Monika was a model. She was the Elite model "face of the 80’s" winner for 1988-89 or something like that. So she basically was comfortable in front of the camera, but incredibly intimidated by being surrounded by all these other actors. All you had to do was look at the call-sheet and you’ve got Maxwell Caulfield and Bruce Campbell and David Carradine and Alexander Godunov, whom at the time was just in 'Witness' and 'Die Hard.' So all these actors were great. What I think happened was that for the first couple of days, Monika was really nervous. But I think literally Tony talked her through it. He’s a good director, so he basically directed her through it and did what he had to do. She wasn’t familiar with line readings, so he’d give her a line reading and get off the set. She was grateful for any help and eventually what happened with Monika was she was a very, very smart girl and she gained her confidence within a few days and picked it up as on the job training and really had some nice moments in the movie.
For me personally as a fan, I have my favorite moments in both movies. For the first, it’d be the werewolf scene. In the second, it’s definitely the scene with Bruce Campbell. What were your personal favorite scenes in each respective movie?
That’s tough! The second movie for me personally – and I’ve told Tony this so he knows this… if the first movie is a strange movie, the second one is one of the most bizarre movies ever made. 'Waxwork II: Lost In Time' is absolutely nuts! And if Tony were sitting here, he’d start cracking up because he loves the fact that the sequel is so nuts. I think he said one time while he was writing the script; he was trying to throw in everything and the kitchen sink into it. He wanted it to be a mad cap romp! Which is why he loves the rap song at the end over the credits. It’s ridiculous. It’s not supposed to be serious. At all. We know how ridiculous it is and we don’t think we’re being cool. So, my favorite scene… to be honest I haven’t seen the second one in about 15 years, but I would say I like the bit where Alexander and I fight through time. That was really fun, and there’s that spot where we stop and go into the 'Godzilla' movie with the unbelievably ridiculous stuffed 'Godzilla' that they probably got from some toy shop and did stop-motion animation with. We’re all suddenly screaming Japanese. (Laughs) I say something and Tony mis-dubs it so it looks like an Ultraman episode. That’s probably my favorite moment from the movie. I think that’s really hilarious.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but did you also do a lot of your own stunts in these movies?
In the second one, I’m also particularly proud of all of the stunts I did. I did all of the stunts. If you notice, my character takes a beating in 'Waxwork II.' He gets the shit beat out of him! And all of those things like the flying through the air and landing while facing the camera after being punched by the guy who had his face kind of hanging off, which side-note was actually the doorman at a really popular Los Angeles club. One of the brilliant things that Tony Hickox did was he took all the doormen and all the DJ’s of all the popular clubs and gave them small parts in his movies, and pretty much bought himself admittance and free tables into every hot club in Los Angeles for the next 3-4 years.
(Laughs) That is smart!
If you look in 'Waxwork II,' the taxi driver is played by Brent Bolthouse, who for 20 years was one of the biggest club promoters in Los Angeles. Most people don’t realize that, but you can’t help but crack up about that. Anyways, I digress. Going back to the first movie..
I always loved the ending of the first one with all the monsters, all out at once. That must’ve been fun to do.
Yeah. Working with Patrick Macnee was great. And by the way, that was another reason I agreed to do the movie. I grew up watching 'The Avengers' and I loved them. I loved Diana Rigg and I loved Honor Blackman and I loved Patrick Macnee, so the idea of working with Patrick was a great thrill and to my delight and joy, Patrick Macnee was one of the great gentlemen I had the pleasure of working with. He was such a great guy, so charming, so polite, such a great actor. He reminded me very much of Christopher Lee. They were very dissimilar but what they had in common was they were immaculately mannered, polite and respectful English gentlemen. Those two men are about as charming as you can get. The two of them, the stories they had. I mean Patrick on Peter Sellers and the ‘Goon Show’ and Spike Milligan. Unbelievable stuff.
So, obviously a lot of your fans know you from 'Gremlins,' but are you surprised now by the fans that recognize you from 'Waxwork' and just in general by the cult following the film has amassed over the years?
I wouldn’t say I’m surprised, because there’s always been a number of people that have approached me and said they love 'Waxwork.' What I am surprised about is that 25 years later, it doesn’t really show any signs of abating. In fact if anything I think it’s as popular if not more since it originally came out. It was always this cult-y thing that has kind of graduated into a must-see horror movie amongst horror fans. Even if you don’t like it, and there are plenty of people that don’t, and I can see why they don’t and there are tons of people that don’t like the second one. (Laughs) I hear that all the time, "Dude, I love the first one, but I don’t know about the second one." Even if they don’t like it, I think horror fans feel compelled to see it anyways. Like it’s something you should see and be conversive about, which is awesome. The fact that it’s required viewing almost 30 years later is wild.
You can watch both 'Waxwork' and 'Waxwork II: Lost In Time' streaming free here on the FEARnet website from April 15th through April 18th. Click the title to each if "you'd like a closer look."