As July comes to an end, AndersonVision finishes up its month long coverage of Albert Pyun’s work and his recent film output. While the Road to Hell review is still pending, we figured it would be time to post our interview with director Albert Pyun.
I’ve been interested in Pyun since I was 8 years old, so it’s a treat to finally talk to the maverick director.
ANDERSONVISION: What is it like having directed 54 films? At those numbers, you’re hitting a John Ford and Michael Curtiz level of film output.
ALBERT PYUN: I always knew I’d be able to direct ONE film, but I had the attitude that if I got that first film, and if it play at my favorite movie theater in Hawaii, I’d be content. I never had been been so bold to dream that I could make 54! After the first film, I figured if I got a chance to make a second…it would be a bonus. Then they started piling up as I got offers. But I stayed pretty much to properties I wanted to make.
AV: How did social media influence your approach to making Interstellar Civil War?
PYUN: Just having the opportunity to speak to my fans (and especially haters), I understood who would be seeing it (or not!! LOL). The fans who follow my films related stories about past films and how they affected or influenced the fan. So I knew if I made ICW, it had to be bold and original. It had to be a film experience my fans would love and it had to be a film that would roil and outrage those who were not my fans. Too late to please anyone but me and my glorious fans!
AV: Addressing the elephant in the room, how did the diagnosis of early on-set dementia influence your approach to Interstellar Civil War?
PYUN: It required I shoot in the most stable environment possible. Some place where the temperature could be controlled and I could pretty much remain seated for the entire shoot. I had to work with the most generous and kind artists I knew. But where the dementia really affected the film was the tone and editing. It made thinking linear impossible and so the film has a very freeform art quality to it. Its how my brain works now, in fits and gasps. So that translated to the film in an honest fashion. It also had a huge influence on the script. Some drafts were very dark and pessimistic. But my writing partner and wife, Cynthia, would reject those pages and nudge me gently back to a more hopeful reality. But where the dementia can be felt in the film is in the paranoia and the feeling some other entity other than yourself or in all the things you ever believed in, actually controls your life. That’s what ICW is about at its core, the loss of control over your life. That a darkness progresses and it is relentless. One day I awaken and there won’t be an Albert Pyun anymore. He’s slowly being destroyed.
AV: Having watched the current edit of ICW, I was blown away by how tight it plays. Naturally, I expect some bumps in a film’s early cut. What are you doing differently to make a film play so smooth early on in the editing process?
PYUN: (laugh) Well, I’m glad it does, thank you, because god knows how it reached this destination. Each day was a struggle. Sometimes I had seizures as I edited. I’d regain consciousness hours later and have no idea what I was doing (though many felt this was me on all my films – laughs). I would accidently erase or delay a entire version and there were days when I’d lose my sight or hearing making it impossible to edit. But my wife, Cynthia, my collaborator Michael Su (who shot the film), Tony Riparetti, my longtime composer and my longest partner on films and so many friends helped me over the hurdle. It couldn’t have been easy for them. It must have been scary for them.
AV: READER QUESTION: Jean-Claude Van Damme and Michael Dudikoff get in a fight. How do you film it?
PYUN: Carefully – lol. Actually I would try to breakdown the fight into specific set ups. Both are great with action and choreography so construction of the fight would be simple. I’d use multiple cameras and shoot both wide. Keep the fight moves non stop (to avoid posing). I’d Use hard light on both. As much as their eyes can stand. Very high contrast. And a coverage that covers eyes in very tight detail. Honesty of the fight is there as both have very expressive eyes. I’d try to make the fight as much power against power as both are strong. More power than finesse. Two Raging Bulls – lol.
AV: What were the Sci-Fi elements that influenced your approach to Interstellar Civil War?
PYUN: Definitely David Lynch’s Dune and Ridley Scott’s director cut of Kingdom Of Heaven and Lion in the Winter. And I know this will piss people off, but seeing Force Awakens and Rogue One really reminded me of the type of movie I did not want to make. I didn’t want to make a souless, same old type of Space Opera. I wanted ICW to be original. To be something that challenges the audience to keep up and not be predictable in any way. To go against audience expectations.
AV: Could there be more Interstellar Civil War films in the future?
PYUN: I love the characters and this universe but no. I think there are other genres I need to trample in the time I have left.
AV: I haven’t had the chance to see Road to Hell yet due to summertime scheduling. What was the process like continuing a cult film from another cult movie director?
PYUN: Streets of Fire was a transformational experience for me. I wanted to play in that universe. I love Walter Hill’s films. I love his eye and imagination. And I wanted to make a movie with Michael Pare in the old republic studios / Edgar Ulmer style. A true B movie done with pure imagination and great acting.
AV: What is the current distribution plan for Interstellar Civil War?
PYUN: I haven’t decided yet. the luxury I have now is I don’t have to worry much about distribution. We’ve gotten a few nimbles but I want the fest circuit first. Then we’ll see.
AV: READER QUESTION: Where did Mr. Pyun get the idea for Radioactive Dreams from? How has he been able to get funding to get movies made the last many years? Who did he have in mind to play Jameson for his aborted Spider-Man film?
PYUN: In terms of Radioactive Dreams, I can’t remember how I got the idea. But I was inspired in wanting to use a lot of music styles – lol.
My funding has come from private sources and my own wallet.
We had finished casting, but I don’t remember now.
AV: READER QUESTION: He once randomly visited Vern’s website and took questions from the peanut gallery. What other websites does Mr. Pyun visit?
PYUN: Vern’s, Dread Central, AICN, Twitch, pretty much all the main ones. I’ll respond if I think I can add to the conversation.
AV: If the worst happened and you couldn’t make movies after this, what four Pyun films would you want any fans and/or potential fans to see? What are your cinematic highlights?
PYUN: Definitely,INTERSTELLAR CIVIL WAR, Mean Guns, Down Twisted (which I consider my second best film after ICW), Invasion, Road To Hell (third best film). Also I think the work the cast, Michael Su and Tony Riparetti did in THE INTERROGATION OF CHERYL COOPER is among the best.