The Spike TV ComicCon panel, keyed to their upcoming 2007 Scream Awards, took a lively turn this morning as panelists talked openly about Hollywood politics, groused about the MPAA, and encouraged viewers to “take back their power.”
Not that any of this is surprising. ComicCon is the convention of the unconventionals and the ungovernables, and smacking around TPTB a little is du rigeur.
IFC talk show host, singer, poet and culture critic, Henry Rollins, moderated a panel that included Linda Blair (from the original Exorcist), Sid Haig (the venerable cult actor who took home the 2006 Scream “Most Vile Villain” Award for his portrayal of Captain Spaulding in The Devil’s Rejects), and Saw producer Mark Burg.
First, Rollins asked panelists to riff on why the horror genre gets no respect.
Linda Blair reminisced about her first Oscar award ceremony at age 15. “I sat in the audience trying to figure out why we were not winning,” said the actress, now a stunning adult. “A certain famous director in Hollywood felt this film should not be part of Hollywood system. There was all this politics going on behind the scenes. John Houston said there was no movie that qualified for special effects that year. Do they honestly think I can levitate and spin my head around!? That’s when I learned about the politics and the Hollywood system.”
Haig observed that Silence of the Lambs “wasn’t rated horror because it wouldn’t win awards.”
Addressing the horror genre stigma, Rollins later asked Haig if the studios “make exceptions for high brow films such as Silence of the Lambs.”
“Yes,” confirmed Haig, “when House of 1,000 Corpses was rejected by Universal, who paid to make it, they were interviewed by the L.A. Times. They asked “why does Hannibal get a thumbs up and House of 1,000 Corpses get a thumbs down?’ They replied: ‘because we know that Anthony Hopkins is not like that..”
The controversial film was eventually distributed by Lionsgate. Haig said the theatrical was banned in Tracy, California, but that “kids just caravanned to the next town” to see it
An audience member asked about the impact of the MPAA.
Mark Burg reported that just yesterday the MPAA slapped Saw IV with a NC17 rating. But he’s exacting a modicum of revenge anyway. “At the Saw panel later this afternoon,” snerked Berg, “We’re showing what the MPAA didn’t let us show. So I’m going to pretend I didn’t get their email … but there’s nothing we can do about it. Theaters won’t play unrated movies, newspapers won’t advertise, Wal-Mart won’t stock NC17. It’s all trickle down.”
Another audience member asked about the commercialization of horror and music. “Horror is getting legitimized. Hard [rock] is getting legitimized,” the young man lamented, addressing Rollins.
Rollins told the audience to hunt down the alternatives. “On my show, there is wonderful music, offensive, innovative music that will clear the room and have your parents swearing they never birthed you,” Rollins said. “You have to look at the edge, the periphery. My show streams online Tuesdays from 8-10. You can stream it for free. I play stuff that’s completely insane.”
Rollins wasn’t the only one telling audiences to storm the citadels of big media. Haig had his own advice. “If I had the power to do anything it would be to empower you to take control. Get on the Internet,” he exhorted the crowd, unprompted, “tell ‘em what you want to see. You’ve got the money that they want. Take the power; it’s yours.”
Rollins wrapped up the panel by urging the converted to keep experimenting and to embrace their weirdness. “When you stop supporting this kind of thing, when you stop thinking differently - as you do - culture in this country dies,” he pleaded, “and when it does, it’s not gonna be the country you want to wake up in. So never back off of your convictions, the stuff that you’re into. No matter who says ‘that’s weird, you’re weird’ — just say say ‘thank goodness I’m weird’ because weird is good if it looks like this. Let’s have a really great time at Comic Con!!!”
Later, outside the panel, I stopped to chat w/ Haig briefly as fans crowded ‘round to have their pictures taken with him. He said that fans of genre films “just have to realize they have a voice. The main objective for any studio is to extract as much money from your pocket as they possibly can. And the smart ones will listen to what you have to say. So my message to fans is: get on the Internet and tell them what you want!”
When asked to name studios and executives who have reputation for listening, Haig listed the “people at Lionsgate and the Weinsteins.” And, he added, “in the old days, Roger Corman. I love that guy. I’ve done ten pictures with him. Still, today, he has his finger on the pulse.”
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