If you’re longing for a little something which throws back to the bodacious action movies of the 1980’s then Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires is definitely a film you’ll want to check out. Today we’re sitting down with writer/director/creator and all round awesome dude Mike Mort to discuss bringing the wise-cracking cop from his imagination to the big screen.
You mentioned during the Q&A before the Chuck Steel screening that you invented the character back when you were 15, can you tell us a bit about how Chuck came to be?
I used to doodle the character in my school books and draw concept art for various movie ideas with Chuck. I’m not really sure where he came from but was probably an amalgamation of all the movies I was absorbing back then – Die Hard, Evil Dead, Dirty Harry etc. Although, for some reason I remember the character Wolf from Spacehunter being a bit of an influence too. And the sarcasm of Fletch! Plus I loved monster movies especially Ray Harryhausen ones. I had been shooting Super 8 claymation films in my parents’ garage since I was about 12 (if I remember correctly), so I started making a Chuck Steel short called Armageddon Time – where Chuck fights off hordes of monsters to save a small kid (it was a thin plot). It was an excuse to experiment with all sorts of crazy claymation stuff (hopefully it will be on the Blu ray!). I also made another Chuck Steel short in college called Hard as Hell – again, just Chuck fighting monsters for 10 minutes! Over my animation career that followed, I was always trying to get a long form project off the ground with the character but it took this long to get there. I really hope it turns out to be worth it!
Was it always an idea that you wanted to turn his story in to a movie? It seems like the character could work well in so many other mediums like comics or episodic TV for instance.
It was always about making a film. I had drawn comics growing up but I always wanted them to move! I’m still the same today – I find it hard to pick up a pencil to draw or some clay to sculpt without there being a film at the end of it.
There are some great supporting characters in both Night of the Trampires and the Balls of Steel Justice short. Can you talk a bit about creating some of the other faces in Chuck’s world?
I love drawing characters – it’s something I’ve always done so it was quite good fun seeing all the different ways I could make the characters look unique. One of the issues sometimes in stop motion, is all of the background characters look similar (usually because the same mould is used for cost reasons). I was determined that all the background characters would look unique in their own right, especially all the Trampires. The vast cast that is in the film allowed us to be quite free with continuity in terms of which characters are meant to be in each scene – especially when there were big group shots that were filmed out of sequence. I also really love sculpting so I was involved with sculpting around a quarter of the trampire heads and most of the monsters. I designed all 425 characters and the monsters. We had a team of modelmakers who were responsible for the fabrication, moulding, casting, painting and armature making – I just got to do the fun stuff!
The Trampires are a hilarious concept, so original, how did you come up with the idea?
Well, I had been toying with the idea of making a low budget horror live action film set in my home town – there’s lots of pubs! But when I began to try to write a Chuck script back in 2000/2001 I thought I’d just join the two ideas up. I thought I was being quite original with the name Trampires, but I have since been informed that there was an old adult film with that title too, plus Wil Ferrell coined the phrase on a chat show as we were making the film, when he was making a joke about one of the cast members of Twilight having an affair with someone – I think the clip is on YouTube. I added a line in the film, to try to break the connection but it wasn’t really necessary looking back. There’s no new ideas under the sun!
Bringing the film to the big screen sounds like a real labour of love, how has that process been for you? You must feel a great sense of pride finally seeing Chuck on the big screen.
It’s a good feeling knowing that something you have toiled over for so long finally exists. I am proud of the film, and what it took to get it made, and I know there will be people out there who love it. It’s not been plain sailing though. As we were making the film, the world started to become very PC and it’s only getting worse. It’s made selling the film to a decent sized distributor very difficult as none of them take any risks anymore. That’s why we are self releasing. Recently, Jerry Zucker has said he would not have been able to make Airplane! today – you know something is seriously wrong in the world when that is the case! Many people are sick of this PC stranglehold that is crippling movies and I hope Chuck goes some way towards pushing back in the long run.
In our review Neil said “Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires is the perfect antidote to the cookie cutter Hollywood blockbuster. Just like it’s lead character the film is ostentatious, sleazy and gloriously violent. But don’t be fooled, this is a movie with its tongue firmly in its cheek and adept at satire.”
Catch Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires exclusively in UK cinemas now.
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