*** Note: This is not the official interview. To see that, with much better background design and crisp, color photos, you have to go to KillerReviews.Com ***
March 19, 2009 Interview with Rena Riffel
Rena Riffel, director and star of the new film “Trasharella”, as well as being known for her roles in “Showgirls” and “Striptease”, took time from her evening to sit down with Gavin Schmitt of Killer Reviews for a while and talk shop. While focusing on “Trasharella”, a wide array of topics was covered. Plenty of talk about nudity, Tim Burton, David Lynch… and we may have uncovered an upcoming Hasselhoff project before even David himself knows about it.
I have divided the interview up into three parts (past, present, future) for those who don’t have the time to read the whole thing… I encourage you to if you can, but if not, now you can jump right to the topics you’re most interested in.
Thanks, Rena, for a great conversation!
GS: I’m going to focus on your film background very briefly, because we’re going to focus on promoting newer projects today.
GS: I only have two questions about past projects. First, why are you always naked?
RR: (laughs) That’s a good question. Well, the answer would be I don’t know. It’s not because I’m trying to be naked. It’s just that those are the parts that they cast me in. The director, the producer, whoever they are, they like to hire me to get naked in my roles.
GS: Okay, because I was looking through your filmography and you’re naked in like half of your films.
RR: Yeah, probably half of them I did nudity in. But some of them, you know, I’m not naked in all the movies I’ve done or all the television I’ve done. So, yeah, probably half the films have nudity in. But then they tempt me with such good roles, too, and it’s a good part in a small film or a big movie, and of course I’m not going to turn down “Showgirls” or “Striptease”. Or “Breast Men”. Because, you know, they’re huge films and great movies. So I’m okay with having to do nudity if it’s a good part. I’ve turned down a lot of movies where, you know, the part isn’t very good and they want me to do nudity… turned those films down a lot of times.
GS: Cool. Yeah, it was the first thing I noticed, which was strange… at least to me.
RR: Really? But wait, you do horror movie reviews. Don’t you notice in horror movies there’s a lot of nudity usually, or that they want there to be nudity in horror movies?
GS: That’s true, but I think they usually pass it off to someone who’s new in the business.
RR: Oh yeah, like the small part where they get killed, have nudity and show their boobs. What movies stood out to you that I did nudity in?
GS: There’s the ones you listed already, and I believe you’re naked in “Candyman 3”.
RR: Yeah, and I got them to let me wear a G-string in that. In the script they wanted me to be totally naked. And with all those bees all over me, I went to the director and asked if I could please wear my G-string, because there were bees everywhere. So he’s like (disappointed) “Oh, okay.”
GS: Were they real bees?
RR: Mmm-hmm. Yeah, those are real bees on me.
GS: Then that’s probably a good thing they let you cover yourself.
RR: Yeah, i know, it was bad enough just in my G-string. What other films was I naked in?
GS: [insert films here] Even in the new one, “Trasharella”, you’re topless. It’s not prominent, but it’s in there.
RR: Oh, did you watch “Trasharella”?
GS: I did.
RR: Oh good, okay. Well, I didn’t do nudity in “Trasharella” but…
GS: No, not outright nudity, but there’s a little bit of toplessness that sneaks in there.
RR: Well, that was actually an accident because my boobs just really kept falling out of my outfit. For real. I kept that in the movie because that’s what would keep happening. I’d look down and be like “oh no” but I didn’t have any other shots to use. So, um, yeah… I had to leave it in.
GS: The other question was: who is weirder, Tim Burton or David Lynch?
RR: Oh, hmmm. Weird in what sense? You mean in their creativity or their personality?
GS: Probably their personalities.
RR: Oh, let’s see. Well, I wouldn’t say that they’re weird. They were just very creative. I got to know David Lynch more than Tim Burton. You mean on the Batman movie? [“Batman Returns”]
RR: I didn’t get to know him very well. I would imagine that Tim Burton would probably be weirder even though I don’t know him. I just think he would be more out there. I think David Lynch is just more introverted and dreamy and creative. I imagine Tim Burton would be more wild and crazy… in a good way.
GS: Moving on to current projects. “Dark Reel” — I loved it.
RR: Oh, good!
GS: I really, really loved it. Your part was rather small, which I found disappointing, because you did a great job.
RR: Thank you. Yeah, I think it’s rather too small, I agree.
GS: So, my question is… do you think they should really make “Gnome Killer”?
RR: We actually did.
GS: I know there’s a making-of featurette on the DVD, but it’s only maybe ten minutes long. I’d love to see a full movie.
RR: Yes, I agree. I’d love to see “Gnome Killer”. That was my favorite movie within the movie. I was loving that.
GS: I needed more.
RR: Yeah. That’s awesome! Yeah, I think that we should definitely make “Gnome Killer”.
GS: I enjoyed “Dark Reel”, but I almost enjoyed the “Gnome Killer” scenes better.
RR: Me, too! That’s so cool. Actually, I was loving “Gnome Killer” so much that I almost take credit for telling Josh, the director Josh Eisenstadt, I was urging him to make “Gnome Killer”. I said the same thing to him that you just said to me. Because it’s so fun, and I love the theme song. Don’t you love the theme song?
RR: (singing) Gnome killer! So I told him that, and we ended up doing it as a DVD extra. Yeah, I think we gotta make “Gnome Killer”. I’m going to tell him you said that.
GS: Let’s talk about “Trasharella”, your big new project. It took me about ten or fifteen minutes to really get into it because I wasn’t even sure what was going on. It’s a very strange film.
RR: It’s more like the arthouse thing, more cult and with a weird vibe, you know? I was influenced by Ed Wood, “Plan 9 From Outer Space”, and the Andy Warhol movies from The Factory. Just really rough like that. So, yeah, it’s different. It’s definitely left of center.
GS: You’re got Count Smokula in it, Mary Carey, kind of some cult figures. For those of us who don’t really know, who is Count Smokula?
RR: He comes from the whole Troma world and he’s a vaudevillian, burlesque comic. He’s a real vampire, he’s like 500 years old and he really is Count Smokula most of the time. Whenever I see him, he’s Count Smokula. He plays the accordion, he has a ventriloquisrt named Grandpa. I think it really is his grandpa. He performs all over LA at burlesque shows and he’s always entertaining and he tells jokes and he’s from Smokesylvania. And, (laughs) and it was amazing that he was in “Trasharella” and he’s really funny.
GS: I loved him in it.
RR: Thank you, I’m sure he’ll be happy to hear that.
GS: I thought he was strange, but I think that was the point.
RR: Oh yeah, that was the point. Yeah, he’s very strange. He’s like, I guess, slapstick comedy and play on words… he’s just very clever, and it’s off the top of his head, too. Just off the cuff. And a lot of those songs he does in “Trasharella”, he can just make up whole songs on the spot.
GS: Let’s talk about the “unique filming style” of “Trasharella”. There’s a variety of different film qualities…
RR: Mmm-hmm. With the different camera qualities that you noticed, that was because when I first started filming “Trasharella”, it was pretty much a different project. We had this tiny, little, messed up digital camera. I don’t even know what it’s good for. We were just messing around, and I was going to do a webisode, but the webisode turned into a film. (laughs) So some of it is filmed on the old digital camera, and you’ll notice it has this wobbly conga sound every time we move the camera.
GS: I did not notice, actually.
RR: Oh. Oh, well, that’s good. We did good in the post sound work then. After I filmed those scenes that you noticed with that particular low grade camera, I knew I was going to go very grindhouse with it, mess it up and make it look really messy. Because it did already look very messy and flawed. After that, after I was becoming more serious about finishing the film, I borrowed a camera which is a professional camera and shot the rest of the film on that. There’s actually one shot on there that was shot with an even better camera, with 24p, which is more of a film look. And the whole film was actually shot in a video look, so we made the 24 drop down to make it look like film. I sighed when I saw it because I was editing it on my computer it had a grainy look, it looked really good. I put it on my TV, and I had never done the whole post production thing before… I put it on my TV and I was like “oh my gosh, that’s awful”. So we had to go back and do the de-interlacing, which gave it more of a film look. There were problems that went along with doing that, too. It was giving the movie a strobing effect. All those flaws that happened, I just had to embrace them and just go with a really flawed approach. Some of them I could fix, and some of them I couldn’t. It’s kind of a term now — “Trasharella” style film-making. Just kind of going with the flow, and when everything gets messed up you have to look at it like a blessing.
GS: I think it worked. I’m not going to lie. There were some scenes that I could have used a bit more film quality, but it seemed like you were going for that look on purpose, so, I think it’s good.
RR: Well, since the theme of the film is trash, and I made it really trashy… it’s more of an art house movie. You know, it’s like experimental and it has to embrace everything that’s flawed about it. The film really came together in the editing room, like a big puzzle, I had to assemble it. I had to trim down fourteen hours worth of footage into this strange, weird but fun movie.
GS: I also noticed in the cast and crew, it appears you hired a lot of family members.
RR: (laughs) Of course! Because everyone who ended up in the movie were people who either were standing close to me and I’d say, “Come here, you’re gonna be in the movie” or I would call them up and say, “Can you come over tonight and play this part?” So, none of it was done in a traditional way, and then of course I’d have my whole family be in the movie. The Paris part of it, I went up home and that was my mom and dad. My dad’s been videotaping me, you know, as a cheerleader and everything else I’ve done in my life for so long. So, he did really good camera work, actually. I dressed my mom up like an 1800s prostitute and she’s like, “Oh, Rena, the things I do for you. I hope you appreciate this!” She was a good sport, but she just did that for me — she didn’t want to be in the movie. And so I made her play her accordion. And then my dad goes, “Well, I want a part.” So, I was like, “Okay, Dad, you’ll be a drunken French man.” He was “How did I do?” and I said, “Well, that was pretty good, Dad.” He’s the one, if you remember ,the drunk French guy comes up…
RR: So that’s my dad. He was in his robe at the time and I was like, “That’s fine, that’s fine, just do your part, you look great.” Then I had to drag my brother… he plays the laundry dude who ends up getting killed. And he totally didn’t want to do that part. He was in here recording music, and I told him he had to do this part for me. He was like, “Oh God”. He went there and did it, and was like, “Okay, am I done now?” Yeah, that’s my family story.
GS: I’m going to ask you very briefly about three future projects, but before I do that, I have a question I ask everyone I interview. Do you have any dirt to share on David Hasselhoff?
RR: Oh! Is that…? I’ll answer your question in a second, but I saw the David Hasselhoff question on someone else’s interview [Arlen Escarpeta] on your site and I asked myself, “Is David Hasselhoff in Friday the 13th”?
GS: No, he’s not. [Please note: Rena Riffel reads Killer Reviews!]
RR: Like personal dirt? I know they love him in Germany. And I wrote this new script, and I actually was thinking of having him play a part in it.
GS: So, we probably shouldn’t say anything bad about him then.
RR: No, I really don’t have any dirt on him. Nope, no dirt. (laughs) If I can remember any dirt… I don’t think I ever met him.
GS: One of these days I’m going to find something.
RR: Do you hope you can find someone who knows him, or… like, actually saw him in bathroom?
GS: I don’t know. You’d be surprised how many stories I get where someone will tell me they don’t know him, but ran into him somewhere. Apparently he’s always around. For the future projects, I’ll just name them and you tell us what they are.
GS: “Eerie, PA” — your third film working with Tony Todd.
RR: Yes. Tony Todd is directing it, and it’s about gambling addiction and the greedy side of life and what happens when you’re addicted to gambling and bookies. I play a really hard-core, tough bitch.
GS: Has filming begun on that?
RR: No, it hasn’t begun yet. We’re getting ready to do that, we’re going to do it this year. We’re just waiting to go make that movie. Actually, there’s a movie — you probably don’t know about this — Tony Todd is involved with another horror movie, it’s called “Catalyst”.
GS: No, I don’t know about that.
RR: Yeah, and I just found out that it’s going to go before “Eerie, PA” now. They want to do that one first. Tony will be directing and it’s about a carnival. And I end up getting killed in it.
GS: So, the two of you are doing yet another project?
RR: Yes. We’re going to be doing two more right now. I think I’ll be doing a lot more work with Tony.
GS: I haven’t had the pleasure to meet him yet.
RR: Oh, he’s great. He’s a wonderful friend. I really admire his acting, his talent and his career so much.
GS: Very cool. Second film: “Inner Balance”
RR: Yes. That’s with the director of “Dark Reel”, Josh Eisenstadt. We were actually working on that before “Dark Reel” came about. It’s a mystery-thriller, not a horror movie, and it takes place in the desert. I think it’s more along the lines of “Mulholland Dr.”, that kind of vibe. It’s going to be very mysterious, very emotional. And intense. I’m going to be starring in it, too. There’s probably going to be some of the same cast of “Dark Reel” for “Inner Balance”.
GS: That was a good cast.
RR: Oh, I know. Lance Henriksen!
GS: The third film is… “Butterfly Lane”.
RR: Where’d you hear about “Butterfly Lane”?
GS: On your website, actually.
RR: Oh, cool. That’s a script that I wrote. It’s a horror movie. And it deals with ghosts and witches and that whole horror movie vibe. So, we’re going to shoot that coming up. I don’t know when exactly, but we’re in talks for “Butterfly Lane”. It’s going to be very haunted, and I’m going to shoot it up where my parents are, where I’m from. It’s the central coast area, so it’s going to have a lot of great scenery. But I was inspired to write that film because in Pismo Beach — actually in Grover Beach, about a mile down — they have these trees that the monarch butterflies come to once a year. There’s just billions of butterflies and people come here to look at the butterflies. The butterflies rest there among eucalyptus trees and swamps and then make their way down to Mexico from there. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that phenomenon. [For those unfamiliar with California, Grover Beach is on the ocean about halfway between Los Angeles and San Jose.]
GS: I’m not sure. I’m not all that familiar with butterflies.
RR: Yeah, it’s a mystery. No one really understands why they do this.
GS: Very cool… and that more or less sums up my questions. Did you have any future projects I missed or a word for your fans?
RR: First, I want to say thank you so much to my fans who have been with me, suported me all these years, and thanks to all my “Showgirls” fans. They’re so great. It’s just getting better and better. We do the midnight movies, and there’s just so many “Showgirls” fans that show up and have fun. I am so honored and I love that the fans love that movie so much now. Especially because when that movie came out everyone hated it. It’s so nice that the whole thing turned around. I love all my fans and I appreciate everyone so much. As far as other projects, I’m working on a workout video right now. That’s in preproduction and it’s going to be fun. I always wanted to do it for years now and I just never did, so I figured now or never, you know? I’m also working on a book, too. I’ve been working on that a while and I want to have it out probably by the summer. It’s called “Starlet Survival Guide” and has all kinds of stories and hopefully helpful advice for people.
GS: Very good.
RR: I have so many projects and ideas… I’m always being creative, always writing. Like the one movie I was going to put David Hasselhoff in. It’s either going to be David Hasselhoff or Fabio for the role.
GS: (laughs) I think they’re a little bit different. I don’t think of those two in the same context usually.
RR: (laughs) Oh, you don’t? I don’t know why I did. It’s for the part of an announcer. Also, just today I started writing a new script for a follow-up to “Trasharella” and it’s going to be much more horror, gore, bloody. And crazy, crazier than the first one. This one should be more slick because I’m going to be a little bit more organized with the script, as opposed to the way “Trasharella” came about. We started making the movie before we had a script — I’ll do it the other way around this time!
The conversation wandered off-topic from there…
Many thanks to Rena Riffel for taking the time to chat with us. She’s a wonderfully charming and funny woman, and we look forward to seeing her in future projects. If you haven’t seen “Trasharella” or “Dark Reel” yet, I strongly suggest you get off your tuckus and find a copy of these.