Breaking into the rec room: An Interview with S.S. Wilson by Kent Hill
S.S. Wilson Just finished Jonathan Melville’s epic book on Tremors and reports that It is all he hoped it would be. In addition to the usual Tremors suspects, Jonathan interviewed dozens of crew members from all the movies and the series. As a result he was able to include many wonderful personal recollections, all new and never before published. He even reported learned many things about the series he never knew!
You can meet Jonathan and get a signed copy at a special Tremors event, Oct 25, at Creature Features, Brent Maddock, Ron Underwood and S.S. Wilson will be there, too — and maybe other Tremors alums.
A rare and exciting Film Fest you don’t want to miss! The first of it’s kind…a Celebration of the “unheard voice…”
Saturday, September 26th
11:00am: DESPICABLE ME
featuring Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio
Saturday, September 26th
featuring Brent Maddock & S.S. Wilson
Saturday, September 26th
6:00pm: EDWARD SCISSORHANDS featuring Caroline Thompson
Please visit www.91301.org/events/celebratescreenwriters for more information!
As part of a new cultural program, the Agoura Hills Cultural Arts Council’s “Celebration of the Arts” is presenting a 2-day festival, Cinco and Ken’s “The Greatest Movies Ever Written!”. Led by the blockbuster screenwriting team of Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, who co-wrote Despicable Me, the festival is placing the spotlight on screenwriters.
Paul and Daurio have selected some of their favorite films worthy of being watched multiple times because they started with a great screenplay. The movies’ screenwriters will join them for Q&A panels accompanying each screening to discuss the process of writing the movie, the choices made, and how different first drafts can be from the filmed version.
For tickets, please visit http://www.regencymovies.com
29045 Agoura Road
Agoura Hills, CA 91301
Writer, producer and director S.S. Wilson was interviewed on AZTV Morning Scramble 8/17/2015. Topics covered included his films Short Circuit, Tremors, Batteries Not Included, Heart and Souls and his books Tucker’s Monster and Fraidy Cats.
One of the foremost practitioners of the art of motion picture special effects, Academy Award-winner, Phil Tippett achieved new heights with his work as “Dinosaur Supervisor” on Steven Spielberg’s groundbreaking JURASSIC PARK. Long recognized for his extraordinary design and execution of some of the most memorable creatures in film history, Tippett collaborated on JURASSIC PARK for two years; primarily responsible for two of the film’s more noteworthy creations — the awe-inspiring Tyrannosaurus Rex and the terrifying Velociraptors — Tippett’s work on this film caps nearly two decades of outstanding accomplishments in special visual effects. It also represents the culmination of his lifelong fascination with dinosaurs and paleontology.First inspired by such legendary fantasies as KING KONG and such Ray Harryhausen spectacles as THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, Tippett determined at an early age to follow in Harryhausen’s footsteps. A self taught filmmaker by the age of 13, he became a professional animator of television commercials by the time he was 17. Setting aside his career to attend the University of California at Irvine, Tippett became acquainted with a group of nascent visual effects artists such as Jon Berg and Dennis Muren (who most recently collaborated with Tippett on JURASSIC PARK). It was Muren, in fact, who recommended Tippett to the production team on George Lucas’ STAR WARS, the 1978 film that arguably launched a whole new generation of state-of-the-art, effects- oriented movies.
Having animated the miniature chess match and created miscellaneous space denizens for STAR WARS, Tippett next worked on its sequel, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, employing his skills in stop-motion animation to create the sinister, dinosaur like machines knows as “Imperial Walkers” and the hybrid animals know as “Tauntauns.” By 1983, Tippett was head of the Lucasfilm “creature shop,” designing, developing and constructing a wide variety of aliens for RETURN OF THE JEDI, including the monstrous “Jabba the Hut.” For his work on this final chapter of the STAR WARS trilogy, Tippett was awarded the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, having been nominated the previous year for his creation of “Vermathrax Perjorative,” the mythological winged serpent in the highly acclaimed medieval adventure DRAGONSLAYER.
In 1984, Tippett originated his own project, an experimental short film entitled “Prehistoric Beast.” Shot entirely in his garage, the 10-minute action drama creates life in the late Cretaceous Epoch, some 65 – 70 million years ago. Nearly two years in the making, “Prehistoric Beast,” is entirely populated by prehistoric creatures and represented Tippett’s first foray into the realm of cinematic dinosaurs.
After opening Tippett Studio in Berkeley, California, which employs as many as 75 artists and technicians, Tippett further developed his stop-motion animation techniques with the CBS documentary “Dinosaur!” (1985), which won him an Emmy for Special Effects. He won another Emmy in 1984 for his work on “Ewoks: The Battle for Endor,” a project that reunited him with Lucasfilm and also worked on its successful sequel, “Ewoks: Caravan of Courage,” which was made the following year. Other Lucasfilm projects to which he contributed include HOWARD THE DUCK (1986) and WILLOW (1988), which earned him his third Academy Award nomination.
Tippett Studio worked on animated sequences for GOLDEN CHILD (1987) and GHOSTBUSTERS II (1989). A key contributor to the effects in Paul Verhoeven’s futuristic drama ROBOCOP (1987). Tippett also supervised the special effects on its two sequels ROBOCOP 2 (1990) and for ROBOCOP 3 (1991). In (1992-93), Tippett developed and created a character, “The Garthok,” for the comedy CONEHEADS. The studio also worked developing the main character and creating CG animatics for several key sequences on the Universal picture, DRAGONHEART.
Currently Tippett Studio is collaborating on a Martha Coolidge picture entitled THREE WISHES. The studio is involved in special effects sequences of digitally generated fireworks and creature character development working in both stop-motion and computer animation. In 1995-96 a future project to be embarked upon reunites Tippett with Paul Verhoeven on a to be announced project.
Alec Gillis was born in 1959 in Phoenix, Arizona, and a short time later moved to Orange County, California. By age ten, he was an avid fan of fantasy and science fiction movies. Influenced by films such as PLANET OF THE APES, KING KONG, and JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, Alec began making his own amateur movies, and by age thirteen had decided that creating creatures for Hollywood was to be his career.Having spent much of his teen years experimenting and tinkering in his mother’s garage, Alec’s first professional job was on Roger Corman’s low budget space-epic, BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980). There he worked with many other talented industry newcomers, most notably director James Cameron (ALIENS, THE ABYSS), and producer Gale Anne Hurd (ALIENS, THE ABYSS, TREMORS). The next eight years were spent first attending U.C.L.A.’s film school, then working for some of the industry’s top names in make-up effects, most notably Stan Winston (ALIENS, LEVIATHAN, ALIEN NATION).
As one of Winston’s closest associates, Alec has the opportunity to hone his skills as a creature designer, sculptor, and supervisor. It was during his years with Winston that Alec met his future business partner, Tom Woodruff, Jr. In 1988, with their mentor’s blessings, Alec and Tom left Stan Winston Studio and formed Amalgamated Dynamics, Incorporated. Dedicated to the high standards of quality they helped set on films like ALIENS, ALIEN NATION, and TERMINATOR, Alec and Tom have most recently shown their expertise on Gale Anne Hurd’s TREMORS (Universal 1990), and the upcoming ALIEN 3 (20th Century Fox).
In addition to managing a successful Make-up and Creature effects studio, Gillis and Woodruff actively develop original scripts, both individually and as a team. The duo strive to incorporate their story and directing skills into their creature effects work, whether it is by contributing script ideas (as in TREMORS and ALIEN 3), or by second unit directing (LEVIATHAN).
To date, the culmination of Gillis and Woodruff’s talents as writers-directors is the screenplay and teaser reel of THE DEMON WITH THREE TALES co-produced, co-written and co-directed by Alec and Tom, the short film was shot on a shoestring budget and demonstrates not only the freshness and originality of the script, but also the team’s ability to design and direct visually stylish projects on a modest budget.
Born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania in 1959, much of Tom’s early interest in movies and monsters was a result of late-night broadcasts of the now-classic Universal monster movies and the stop-motion effects of Ray Harryhausen. Finally seeing one of the PLANET OF THE APES films in a theatre focused his attention on the craft of make-up, while getting his hands on his father’s 8mm home movie camera at 13 years old simultaneously encouraged his interest in filmmaking.While living so far from Hollywood, Tom’s only professional contact was through the mail, writing letters to the artists whose works he admired most, like John Chambers, who created THE PLANET OF THE APES make-ups. Early in high school, he began to crank out his own Super 8 movies, using friends as cast members and saving money for his own camera equipment. Later, in college, Tom was allowed to adapt an independent studies curriculum in Theatre to focus on filmmaking and writing and continued to work on his own make-up creations and filmwork, story ideas, and screenplays.
Tom finally made his move to Los Angeles in 1982. Six months of making the rounds of make-up effects houses finally led to his first paying job, working for a company on a 3-D science fiction film. It was soon followed by working for Tom Burman on BUCKAROO BANZAI and STAR TREK 3. That work, as well as an association with friends already involved, led to Tom’s joining Stan Winston’s team on TERMINATOR. That was the beginning of a five- year period which saw Tom become a key member of the crew under Winston, and had the opportunity to work on such features as ALIENS and TV shows as AMAZING STORIES, and TALES FROM THE CRYPT.
During this time, Tom began wearing the complicated make-up and costumes of the creatures designed at the studio. His physical build and tolerance as well as his ability to perform as an actor led to his portraying the title characters in such movies as ALIEN 3, MONSTER SQUAD, PUMPKINHEAD, and LEVIATHAN, as well as TV’s AMAZING STORIES.
During these years, Tom continued to write, ultimately teaming up with another of Stan’s designer-technicians, Alec Gillis, to co- produce, write, and direct THE DEMON WITH THREE TALES, a promotional piece designed to sell a feature anthology project. As interest was beginning to generate on the DEMON project, Winston was in a position where letting two of his main crew members go would not interfere with his plans. Tom and Alec formed AMALGAMATED DYNAMICS, Inc., primarily as an imposing- sounding source from which to pursue their own make-up and effects projects, but with the intent to use the company as an umbrella under which their own film productions can eventually grow.
Fred Ward (Earl Bassett) is surely one of the most exciting and unconventional leading men to grace the silver screen. Having worked as a street vendor, janitor, timber faller and subway tunneler, he could probably teach his Tremors/TREMORS 2 character, Earl Bassett, a few new tricks! Whether he’s portraying a vulnerable Gus Grissom in The Right Stuff, roaring to action in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, or navigating the comic turns of the screwball comedy Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, Fred Ward is, in the words of film critics Roger Ebert and Pauline Kael, a “superior actor.”Discovered in 1974 by director Roberto Rossellini, Fred Ward is an accomplished performer whose extensive film career is as atypical as the man himself. Recognized for bringing to life complex characters in compelling ways, Ward has been sought by prominent directors such as Robert Altman (The Player and Short Cuts), Jonathan Demme (Swing Shift), Walter Hill (Southern Comfort), Mike Nichols (Silkwood), Alan Rudolf (Equinox), Beth B (Two Small Bodies) and Sam Shepard (Simpatico). Philip Kaufman, director of Henry and June and The Right Stuff said that “it was great casting Fred to play Henry Miller. He’s been studying for the role his whole life…Fred Ward is the first cult actor of the year 2000.”
Ward studied acting at the Herbert Berghoff Studio in New York, with David Alexander in Los Angeles and with theatre guru Jerzy Grotowsky. Always nomadic, Ward began his film career in Rome with Roberto Rossellini as a star in Cartesio and The Power of Cosimo. He then moved on to San Francisco where Tennessee Williams noticed Ward in a production of Find Your Way Home and cast him in his The Two Characters Play, which garnered both Ward and the play critical and commercial success. Following extensive stage work, including the part of McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and two plays written and directed by Sam Shepard (Inacoma and Angel City) at the Magic Theatre, Ward moved to Los Angeles where he was soon cast as Clint Eastwood’s partner in crime in Escape from Alcatraz.
Since then Ward has starred and co-starred in over 35 films, co- produced Miami Blues with Jonathan Demme and is developing independent films as both a director and an actor. About his projects, Ward says, “They are all about marginal people who try to live by their own rules.”
When Michael Gross (Burt Gummer) traded in the intimacy and familiarity of the theatre for three cameras and a Hollywood sound stage, little did he know he would be catapulted into the limelight with the success of the Emmy Award-winning series “Family Ties.” As passionate ’60s activist Steven Keaton, Gross delighted audiences for a seven-year stretch, and his career continues in full swing, not missing a beat since the show’s touching finale.In TREMORS 2: AFTERSHOCKS, Gross reprises his Tremors role as one-man arsenal Burt Gummer and again demonstrates his unique ability to skate the fine line between hilarity, vulnerability, and the sort of thrilling unpredictability that makes Gross performances as an actor resonate with multi-layered excitement.
Born and raised in the Midwest, Michael Gross graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a B.A. and went on to earn a master of Fine Arts degree from the School of Drama at Yale University. His professional career began with three seasons at the Actors Theatre, the Yale Repertory Theatre, Baltimore’s Center Stage, the Indiana Repertory Theatre and the Mark Taper Forum, where he won a Drama-Logue Award for the West Coast premiere of The Real Thing. New York productions include the Broadway premiere of Bent, for which he received a Drama Desk Award nomination and the off-Broadway production of No End of Blame, which earned him an Obie Award. Recently, he starred in Chicago’s Northlight Theatre production of A.R. Gurney’s Later Life, the American premiere of Money and Friends at L.A.’s Doolittle Theatre and in Chicago, New Mexico and San Francisco productions of Gurney’s Love Letters.
In addition to the science-fiction thriller Tremors, Gross’ feature film credits include Big Business and the independent features Alan and Naomi and Unfaithful. Recent television movies include the starring role in NBC’s drama, “Deceived by Trust,” the highest rated movie of the ’95 season; Fox Television’s “Avalanche;” “Snowbound: The Jim and Jennifer Stolpa Story” for CBS and “In the Line of Duty: The Price of Vengeance” for NBC.
Michael’s passion for acting is closely followed by his passion for trains. As the grandson and great-grandson of railroad workers, Michael is a railroad buff who would rather ride than fly. He is also an amateur railway historian, photographer and award-winning modeler.
New York native Christopher Gartin (Grady Hoover) fell into show business at the age of thirteen when he accompanied his sister on a trip to meet a casting agent. Before he knew it, he was going to his first audition and was cast as the lead in the Circle-in- the-Square production of The Buddy System.A typical teenager, he was torn between the sacrifices of school athletics and a normal life as a kid versus the thrill of acting and its inherent obligations. However, he continued to juggle those responsibilities and landed parts in the features No Big Deal opposite Kevin Dillon and First Born starring Teri Garr and Peter Weller.
It wasn’t until he was chosen by Harvey Fierstein to take over Matthew Broderick’s role in the Tony Award-winning Torch Song Trilogy that Christopher was inspired to pursue a fulltime acting career. Following Torch Song Trilogy, he was cast in the Broadway production of Precious Sons in which he understudied the two “sons” opposite Ed Harris and current cast member Judith Ivey. Following a semester at the University of Southern California, he was cast in the series “Aaron’s Way” and went on to appear on numerous television series including “Who’s the Boss,” “Boys of Twilight,” “Room for Romance,” “Going Places,” “Melrose Place” and “M.A.N.T.I.S.”
Gartin stared in “Buddies,” a comedy series from Wind Dancer Production Group and Touchstone Television. His movie-of-the-week credits include Parent Trap III, Words To Live By, Danielle Steele’s Changes, The Story Lady and Matters of the Heart, and he recently filmed the role of Johnny Mnemonic in the CD-ROM movie version of the feature with Keanu Reeves.
In addition to his acting credits, Gartin has directed a production of David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago and enjoys writing whenever time allows.
Helen Shaver (Kate White Reilly) could be described as a “chameleon” for her uncanny ability to get inside the skin of whatever character she portrays and make audiences believe they are looking into a mirror rather than watching a performance. A native of Canada and one of today’s most exciting and versatile actresses, Shaver has time and time again been singled out by critics for her work. Currently starring in the Showtime series “Poltergeist: The Legacy,” Shaver received a CableACE Award nomination for her role in Showtime’s “Sandkings,” the premiere episode that launched the rebirth of the popular anthology series “The Outer Limits.” Her performance in Desert Hearts won her the Bronze Leopard Award at the Locano Film Festival in Switzerland and she is a Genie Award Best Actress winner for In Praise of Older Women. Additionally, Shaver’s performance in the Broadway production of Neil Simon’s Jake’s Women won her a Theater World Award.After TREMORS 2, Shaver can next be seen in the upcoming feature films The Craft and Open Season, in which she stars alongside writer/director Robert Wahl. In addition, she recently completed production on The Amateurs, directed by Masato Harada. Among Shaver’s previous film credits are The Osterman Weekend, The Color of Money, The Believers, Zebrahead, and That Night.
In 1995, Shaver starred in an episode of Showtims’s “Rebel Highway” and has starred on such popular television show as “WIOU.” She has also guest-starred on episodes of “Hill Street Blues” and “Amazing Stories.”
Marcelo Tubert (Senor Carlos Ortega) enjoys what is surely one of the most varied and interesting careers in Hollywood. An accomplished actor both in movies and on stage, he has worked with many of the best in both media, from Mike Nichols in Postcards from the Edge to Eugene Ionesco in the world premiere of Tales, for Persons Under Three Years of Age. He has been a member of the acting company for the Sundance Institute’s Playwright’s Lab, a guest star on dozens of television shows, from “Melrose Place” to “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and is a member of Antaeus Company, which specializes in classical repertory theater, Film and movie-of-the-week credits include Vampire in Brooklyn, Leprechaun 3, Everything Changes, and Masque of the Red Death, to name a few.Of his latest, TREMORS 2: AFTERSHOCKS, Tubert says, “The movie was just a great experience. I worked with really talented people in every aspect of the production, and director Steve Wilson was very supportive of the actors.”
Marcelo was born in Cordoba, Argentina. His mother, Miriam Tubert, is an actress who did a great deal of stage work and had her own children’s radio show. Marcelo’s introduction to theater came at the age of three, in Garcia Lorca’s Yerma, when a child actor in a visiting troupe became ill. When he was seven, Marcelo and his family moved to Los Angeles where he later took up acting seriously in high school then studied at Los Angeles City College’s Theater Arts Department.
Among his many early influences, he cites actor Alejandro Rey. Tubert began with small television and film roles. As those roles grew larger, he was also proving his versatility, establishing himself in theatre and with commercial and voiceover work.
It has been years in the Making but author Jonathan Melville has finely released his book covering the entire Tremors franchise. Get your copy here!
Most fans are aware that Universal Studios has announced production of a new DVD sequel, being shot in South Africa. For all of us at Stampede, this is a bittersweet development in our long connection with the franchise, since we, the creators, are not involved.
Stampede has always been interested in reassembling the original Tremors creative team to produce a fresh new theatrical sequel in the Tremors voice. We attempted rights negotations with Universal for an independent theatrical film in 2012. However, the sudio passed on the option, preferring to continue the franchise with DVDs at some future date.
Early in 2014, Universal Home Video indicated that they were budgeting another sequel based on a 2004 script written by Brent Maddock and S. S. Wilson. While they pointed out that they had “no further contractual obligation” to Stampede, they did offer us Executive Producer positions. But they also made it clear that in this new even-lower budget project, the Stampede’ partners’ participation would be severely restricted, with little control over cast, director, special effects, locations, or indeed any aspect of production.
It was always only our full involvement as creators that gave us the means and incentive to reinvigorate and expand the Tremors universe with Tremors 2, 3, 4 and the series — despite the significant increasing budget limitations. Without meaningful creative control allowing us to continue to gurantee the integrity of our Tremors vision, we sadly declined to be involved.
The entire Stampede Team extends a big THANK YOU to the loyal fans who have clamored for this movie for so long. For your viewing pleasure, we hope it’s good!
The Stampede Partners:
S. S. Wilson, Brent Maddock, Nancy Roberts. Ron Underwood.
The blind, worm-like animals travel effortlessly through the Pleistocene alluvial soil, tracking prey by means of sonic vibration.
Townspeople terminate the creatures with crude homemade weapons. Existing specimens badly damaged and decomposed. No living animals found for study.
Creatures become widely known as Graboids.
Graboids appear in the oil field. Company employees are consumed and oil production is interrupted.
On site Geologist Kate White reports Graboids are extremely ancient earth life form.
Before all Graboids can be eliminated they undergo a highly unusual metamorphosis sub-divding into smaller bipedal surface creatures. Technically blind like the Graboids, these creatures nevertheless efficiently track their prey by sensing heat. Some humans survived by devising methods to disguise their body heat, including using cold blasts from a CO2 fire extinguisher.
These new creatures become known as Shriekers due to the piercing cry they make when sensing prey.
Shriekers are reported to be hermaphrodites, reproducing by regurgitating an offspring immediately after the consumption of a meal. This has not been confirmed.
Note: If Shrieker reproductive rates are shown to be directly proportional to available food supply, a Shrieker “population explosion” is a potential threat.
According to survivor Burt Gummer, all Chiapas Mexico Shriekers were eliminated by use of an “appropriate” amount of high explosives. All remains badly damaged and decomposed. No living animals found for study.
Radical Graboid hunter Burt Gummer, survivor of both previous Graboid attacks hired by Argentine government to deal with the situation.
According to Gummer, Graboids had already changed into Shriekers before his arrival. Gummer slaughters over a hundred Shriekers with an antiaircraft gun.
All remains badly damaged and decomposed. No living animals found for study.
Graboids reappear in the town of perfection just after former resident Melvin Plug started attempting to buyout local residents to turn the entire town into a housing project called Perfection Valley Ranchettes.Burt Gummer and the rest of the town rally to destroy the new hoard of creatures but the United States Department of the Interior steps in and orders a Graboid to be captured alive.
Before they can capture a Graboid alive the creatures turn into Shriekers and then again into flying creatures that propel themselves into the air using a chemical reaction generated in their abdomen (tail).
Another unusual development in this outbreak is that one Graboid was born an albino and seems incapable of metamorphosing into a Shrieker. This great white Graboid becomes knows to the townspeople as El Blanco.
El Blanco is left alive and the United States Department of the Interior deems Perfection Valley a protected area preventing Melvin Plug from developing his Perfection Valley Ranchettes.
Now the people of Perfection are living with a graboid and who knows what else will come there way…
It’s been 25 years since TREMORS was released in theatres. In that time, it found its audience, spawned three sequels and a television series… all from a little monster movie that was not even considered a success back in 1990.
Seemingly creatures unto themselves for the first act of TREMORS, the snake-like graboid “tongues” were mostly independent puppets for much of the filming. Looking like heavy duty vacuum hoses under their foam latex skin, the tongues were cable operated and used extensively throughout the film. Co-writer S.S. Wilson and director Ron Underwood even helped out on the reverse photography tests!
The 25th anniversary of TREMORS continues. Part 3 features the work put into fabricating the full-size graboids–from early movement tests to final paint. You’ll dig it! Also be sure to check out http://creaturefeatures.com/ for information on the TREMORS 25TH ANNIVERSARY CAST & CREW
Travel back to late spring of 1989 as Alec and Tom and the ADI set crew arrive in Lone Pine, California with the full-size graboids. In addition to getting the monsters ready, it didn’t take long for the shenanigans to begin. Check out http://creaturefeatures.com/ for information on TREMORS CAST & CREW REUNION
Part 5 is a journey in stills featuring construction and filming of the smaller-scale graboids ADI built for TREMORS (not to mention a very special look back into the fashion of shorts)
The last segment of the TREMORS 25th Anniversary series features the 1/4 scale miniature graboid in more detail–from mechanical skeleton construction to painting the foam latex skin and tests of the puppeteering controls, all leading to final photography.
Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc. (http://www.studioadi.com) designed and created “graboids” for the 1989 cult classic TREMORS. This video chronicles the fabrication and puppetry on set.
S.S. Wilson, writer of Tremors and Short Circuit gives a tour of his office.