There are few things in this world that rival my love of horror cinema, but one of them is most definitely the sub-genre known as the “80’s comedy”. There’s something really special about almost all of the comedies (and hell even the dramas) of that era. Even the not so good ones at the very least had heart. And one film that I hold in the highest possible regard is Rod Daniel’s 1985 feature film debut TEEN WOLF starring (at the time) TV sensation Michael J. Fox. Although shot before BACK TO THE FUTURE, the movie didn’t get a proper release until after that flick was huge at the box office. And over the years with the help of the home video market and non-stop HBO airings, the cult following for TEEN WOLF only grew larger and larger eventually spawning a sequel, an animated television series (!) and most recently a TV reboot for MTV.
I caught the original comedy classic on the big screen a few years back at a special triple feature screening at the New Beverly Cinema on Halloween night. I even showed up in a Wolfman costume!
However, as soon as I heard that the Aero Theater was hosting a special “cast and crew” reunion screening, my advance ticket was as good as sold! The only advertised name prior to the event was director Rod Daniel, which quite frankly was more than enough for me. But much to my surprise, when the lights came back up after the end credits, a good portion of the primary cast joined the producers and writers on stage.
In attendance (from left to right in the pictures) were writers Jeph Loeb and Matthew Weisman with Loeb moderating the Q & A. Also present were actors Susan Ursitti (Boof), Jerry Levine (Stiles), Jim McKrell (Principle Rusty Thorn), Matt Adler (Lewis), Mark Holton (Chubs), Scott Paulin (the drama teacher Kirk Lolley) and Jay Tarses (Coach Bobby Finstock)! I noticed that no one on-line has really done a proper write-up of the event, so I figured I’d outline some of the best bits and highlights from the Q & A and share a few photos, all courtesy of my friend Scott Poythress.
– Jeph Loeb kicked it off by saying “Let’s get these 2 questions right out of the way.” The first was about Michael J. Fox. Michael couldn’t be there, but the entire cast and crew had spent the day together prior to the screening and were able to jump on Skype with him. He sent a heart felt message thanking everyone for coming out to the screening and supporting the movie. The second inquiry Loeb referenced, “No, none of us saw the guy in the bleachers that pulled his dick out at the end. But if you’re here, I hope your mom is very proud of you.” He’s of course referencing a funny bit of movie trivia… During the final shot of the film right before the credits roll, you can visibly see an extra in the stands with his privates hanging out of his pants before he tucks it back in. Apparently no one involved with the movie ever noticed it until it appeared on a VH1 show a few years back. “Well, I definitely noticed it this time.”
– When asked about the rumor that the original script was a lot “darker” in tone, Loeb refuted that the film is pretty much as they wrote it. The writers met with 3 potential directors including Rod Daniel and said the other two (“who shall remain nameless”) have gone on to become recognizable names. The writers met with each director and asked them for their take on the movie. The first one envisioned it as a rather dark movie. The second pitched it as this crazy Porky’s-style comedy romp. The third (being Rod Daniel) when asked what he thought the movie was about answered, “It’s about a father and his son just trying to figure it out.” He was the obvious choice.
– While Rod Daniel humbly claimed he didn’t do much of anything directing-wise because “the script already had a perfect 3 act structure” and “the cast were all fantastic”, the cast & writers immediately reverted the credit back to him often saying he was the heart and soul of the movie. Jerry Levine claimed he based a lot of Stiles off of Rod Daniel! He recalled the first time meeting Daniel was when the director pulled up in his car cranking tunes loudly, wearing shades and smoking a cigarette. He was very much “like Stiles”.
– Jerry Levine talked about getting recognized daily as this character. “Most people probably don’t know what my real name is, obviously it’s Jerry, but people always call me Stiles. You could ask someone ‘hey, what’s the name of the character that Tom Cruise plays in the movie Jerry Maguire‘ and they might not even know. But everybody knows who Stiles is!” He told a story of visiting Jerusalem with his family and being recognized there as Stiles.
– Writer Matthew Weisman told the story to Jeph Loeb about a guy he once knew that got his dick caught in a vacuum cleaner and they thought it was funny enough to put in the script, although Jeph claims that at every screening from it’s original theatrical run, that joke never got a laugh!
– Michael J. Fox was apparently a terrible, terrible basketball player. Although he did have two weeks of practice with a coach prior to shooting.
– Michael was able to do the movie because his TV mom Meredith Baxter was pregnant and Family Ties was taking a brief break while she had the baby, hence his schedule was open for a very short period which fast tracked the movie right into production.
– Jerry Levine had passed along the TEEN WOLF script to Susan Ursitti while they were working on Charles In Charge together and that’s when she first read the part of Boof. Although the writers had also seen her in a previous film and knew they wanted her in TEEN WOLF. By the way, Susan looks pretty much exactly the same and I immediately reverted back into my 12 year old self with a huge crush just being in her presence.
– The only scene removed from the script that was never shot was Scott Howard’s appearance on The Tonight Show as the Teen Wolf. At one point in the original script, Teen Wolf had gotten so big and so famous that he made an appearance on The Tonight Show. Director Rod Daniel wisely opted to keep it confined to just the town.
– Actor Scott Paulin based the drama theater teacher Kirk Lolley after his father-in-law who was also a teacher and would say things like, “more sensual, darling. Hurt me. Hurt me,” and “That was really… something.”
– Jay Tarses didn’t recall improving any of his speeches as Coach Bobby Finstock, but the writers claimed that he definitely made it his own. Director Rod Daniel often had to leave the room when Tarses would do his scenes because of how funny he was delivering the lines, in particular the “rules” Coach Finstock lives by.
– An audience member asked the writers if they ever had a proper backstory for Scott Howard’s mom, because “as a kid, I kinda always thought Mick had shot Scott’s mom.” Loeb comically argued with Weisman about this on stage. That line was written by Weisman meant as only an insult from the Mick character and never something to be taken literally, although Loeb always thought people would take it seriously. The question did prompt Loeb to bring up THIS video:
All in all, the TEEN WOLF screening and reunion ranks up there as one of the most enjoyable things I’ve gotten to do since becoming a Los Angeles resident. Now, if only someone would put together a KARATE KID reunion screening? -Robg.