I recently spoke over the phone with Hollywood icon David Winters about his new book, Tough Guys Do Dance. The book not only shares many details about his decades in show business, but also  his desire to leave behind a legacy for others to follow. For those less familiar with David, or anyone curious about what to expect in this new book, we started by discussing a few key points in his long career.

David started his career at a young age working mostly in television with roughly 150 roles by the age of 17.

Marc Heller: A lot of people know you from West Side Story. You were Baby John in the play, and A-rab in the film. How did this all come about?

David Winters: At the time I was on a Broadway show called Shinbone alley at the Broadway Theatre starring Eartha Kitt and Eddie Bracken. It was based off a book by Mel Brooks. I got a call from Jerry’s (Jerome Robbins) secretary. I thought she was putting me on so I hung up. Fortunately she called again, and said that he was about to do a new play called West Side Story, would you like to audition for it? Who wouldn’t want to audition for Jerome Robbins. So I did the audition, and I thought it was terrible, but Jerome thought it was great. I was the first one signed, but I had overheard that Chita Rivera was hired as well. She was the standby for Eartha Kitt on Shinbone alley, so I couldn’t wait to tell her I was working on West Side Story too.

Marc: How did you go from being in the Broadway play to being in the film?

David: I was in London at the time, doing Oliver. I was the Artful Dodger. And I got an offer to do the West Side Story movie.

Marc: And were you aware of how huge the film was going to be?

David: Yes, because the Broadway show had been so huge. Myself, and everyone in the show were getting such a great reaction

David also noted that at 17, he was the youngest person on set.

Marc: So West Side Story was a huge transition for you, after having done so much television, now you were becoming a theatre and film star. Was that your ultimate goal

David: Broadway and film were the ultimate.  In those days if  you were an actor, no one wanted to do television. So your goal was to become a film and stage actor.

David went on to mention his friends Sal Mineo, James Darren, and Michael Callen. Specifically that they all went out to Hollywood and became big stars. But that there were also a lot of people who went out to Hollywood, and wound up being waiters and suit salesmen. He had hoped that an attempt to become a contract person for Columbia Studios would prevent that from happening to him, but after working on Last Angry Man, no further contracts were offered. So he opened up a dance studio in Hollywood

Marc: So tell me about the dance school.

David: It was very successful. We had live music in the school. The dancing was my style, it combined jazz with street dancing.

Marc: And how did you come to meet Ann-Margret?

David: Mickey Banks, who was an assistant in West Side Story wanted to bring a young girl over who was in Bye Bye Birdie. He said he wanted me to teach her private lessons. And we just clicked. She looked great doing my steps, she looked different from everyone else.

David explained that she liked him a lot, and recommended him to Elvis, which is how he got the choreographer job for Viva Las Vegas. And after his work on that film, Elvis went on to continue to use him as his choreographer.


David also went on to do 5 movies and a stage show with Ann-Margret. It was a musical sequence that he produced that convinced Mike Nichols to cast her in Carnal Knowledge which earned her a Golden Globe.

David’s first Emmy was for his show with Nancy Sinatra, but since no category existed for dance, they gave him an award for “Outstanding Achievement in Television”. However, the following year, the Emmys would create a new category, “Outstanding Choreography”, which was awarded to him for his work on Ann-Margret’s show. It’s something he’s very proud of as it leaves a lasting legacy, and now people who follow him can be rewarded for their work.

That’s the key to this book, not just to tell fascinating stories, but about David’s desire to leave behind a legacy, to hopefully inspire and encourage others. Before I get into that, however, I have one last, and very funny story to share.

For those not aware, David directed a cult favorite movie from the 80’s called Thrashin’ starring Josh Brolin. It’s a major part of skating culture, and it has a huge following. Especially considering that Josh Brolin is the lead villain in the newly released Infinity War, I had to ask David about it.

Marc: Can you tell me any stories about Thrashin’?

David: That movie, actually, I wanted Johnny Depp for the part. I auditioned 600 kids, and I took Johnny in to producer Chuck Fries, and Chuck didn’t like him. We both had to agree, and Johnny was a nobody at the time, so he said  no, you can’t have him. Johnny reminded me of James Dean at the time. So Chuck tells me to go find someone else. I spent 2 months around the country, I call Chuck , tell him I found the guy, and send back Johnny Depp again. Chuck goes crazy, he says you can’t have him, he will never make it, you can’t have him. So I apologize to Johnny Depp and we wind up hiring Josh Brolin for the part.

David mentions that he knew Chuck for some time, and would go on to speak to Chuck afterwards, and occasionally leave him a voicemail saying it was David and Johnny Depp.

There are a lot more fascinating stories to tell. About his relationship with Paul Newman. More stories about Ann-Margret and Elvis. Stories about Barbara Streisand and a Star is Born. Sonny and Cher. His relationship with Linda Lovelace, and a lot more. If you want to read about these stories, make sure to pick up the book.

David’s book is not all about  dance and show business. Starting at a year and a half old, he had his first near death experience. It would not be his last, and was even once told by a doctor that he had 25 seconds to live. In the book he candidly discusses his trials and tribulations throughout his life.

It makes David proud  when he sees students of his like Walter Painter go on to win 3 Emmys for Choreography. David very specifically said to me that what you leave behind is important.  So hopefully people who read this book are inspired by his stories and help to carry on his legacy.

In closing I want to share this one last conversation I had with David, that will better explain the title, and purpose of this book. Following up our conversation on legacy, he shares this story with me.

David: So I’m on a studio lot, and there’s a guy coming down the lot, he’s following me, yelling “stop , stop!” But he’s sounding kinda friendly. He says “David Winters!” Which is kind of strange because he knows my name, and he comes up to me, and it’s Henry Winkler. Do you know who that is?

Marc: Of course, Fonzie.

David: So he comes up to me and says I want to shake your hands. When I was a young boy, I wanted to be an actor, and a singer, and where I lived, they all said to me, that’s for sissies, you don’t do that, it’s not for real men. When I saw you in West Side Story, you inspired me to go into show business. I know you weren’t a sissie.

Marc: So men were actually afraid to do song and dance because other guys thought it made them sissies?

David: Absolutely, and you never know in life what inspires people.

I want to thank David for his time, and please be sure to pick up a copy of  Tough Guys Do Dance.


‘Star Trek 4’: S.J. Clarkson Becomes the First Female Director in Franchise’s History

S.J. Clarkson has been tapped to direct Star Trek 4, making her the first female to helm a film in the “Star Trek” franchise.

Paramount Pictures had no comment. The studio announced at CinemaCon in Las Vegas that it was planning a fourth movie with Chris Hemsworth,who appeared as Chris Pine’s father in 2009’s “Star Trek.” Zachary Quinto is also set to return. Paramount is developing another “Star Trek” film from J.J. Abrams and Quentin Tarantino, but sources say it is still being written and would come after the fourth movie.

While details on “Star Trek 4” are vague, sources say a key plot point sees Pine’s character running into his father (Hemsworth) in a time travel ploy.

J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay penned the screenplay. Abrams and Lindsey Weber will produce through Bad Robot Productions, while David Ellison and Dana Goldberg of Skydance Media will executive produce.

The original 2009 reboot “Star Trek” earned $385 million worldwide, while its sequel “Star Trek: Into Darkness” made $467 million globally in 2013. The third, “Star Trek Beyond,” brought in $343 million worldwide in 2016.

Clarkson is best known for her work on the TV scene with shows such as “Dexter,” “Bates Motel,” “Orange is the New Black,” and “Jessica Jones.” She recently directed a handful of episodes for Marvel’s “The Defenders.”



‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Heads to Monster $225+ Million Opening Weekend

Marvel Studios’ AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR..L to R: Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2018

In case you haven’t heard, Avengers: Infinity War  is heading towards an opening weekend that could end all opening weekends.

The Marvel superhero adventure is eyeing a debut weekend of $225 million to $245 million, with a possibility of even crossing the $250 million mark. If numbers reach the end of that range, “Infinity War” could have one of the biggest debuts of all time. The hefty launch should go a long way to justify its wildly expensive price tag of somewhere from $300 million to $400 million.

As of now, the biggest opening weekend of all time belongs to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which bowed with $248 million in 2015 and went on to make over $936.6 million domestically. Only five films in history have hit the $200 million mark in their debuts.

“Infinity War” picks up two years after the events of “Captain America: Civil War” with the Avengers teaming up with the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop the evil Thanos from inter-galactic dominance. The heroic ensemble cast includes Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Chris Evans’ Captain America, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, Chris Pratt’s Star Lord, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange, and Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk.

Joe and Anthony Russo directed from a script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. “Infinity War,” the sequel to 2012’s “The Avengers” and 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” is the 19th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The original “Avengers” had the highest opening to date for a Marvel film, debuting with $207.4 million. Its sequel, “Age of Ultron,” launched with $191 million. The first movie earned $623 million in North America, while the second made $459 million.

“Infinity War” comes on the coattails of the Disney-owned Marvel’s most recent success, “Black Panther,” which opened to a massive $202 million in February. Ryan Coogler’s tentpole continues to shatter records, and has earned an impressive $1.3 billion worldwide.

Naturally, no other studio considered a wide release for the superhero-intensive weekend. A Quiet Place will likely drop to the No. 2 slot in its fourth frame. The surprise hit, directed by John Krasinski and co-starring Krasinski and Emily Blunt, has made $131 million in North America. Other recent releases, such as Amy Schumer’s “I Feel Pretty” and Dwayne Johnson’s “Rampage” should also see drops as “Infinity War” will presumably gobble up the rest of the box office.


Disney Debuts Live-Action ‘Lion King,’ ‘Dumbo,’ ‘Aladdin’ Footage at CinemaCon

Disney dazzled CinemaCon attendees Tuesday with footage from its upcoming live-action The Lion King, Dumbo and Aladdin  movies, all opening in 2019.

The studio closed its 90-minute presentation at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas with “The Circle of Life” opening sequence to Jon Favreau’s The Lion King  which opens July 19, 2019 — 25 years and a month after the original.

The footage appears to mirror the opening minutes of the 1994 animated blockbuster in which King Mufasa’s newborn son, Simba, is presented to the animal kingdom at Pride Rock by Rafiki the baboon, the shaman and adviser to Mufasa. Rafiki, who has the same colorful facial markings as in the animated film, rubs Simba’s face with red dust before presenting him.

Exhibitors were also impressed by the early footage from Dumbo directed by Tim Burton and loosely inspired by the 1941 animated film. The period movie includes Danny DeVito as the circus ringmaster and Michael Keaton as the owner. The footage included image of the CGI pachyderm with massive ears, but did not include any actual flying by the elephant.

“We had to hold something back,” said newly named distribution head Catherine Taff, who presided over the presentation.

Attendees also gave a positive response to footage from the live-action Aladdin, starring Will Smith as the Genie.  The film — a remake of the 1992 animated hit — also stars Mena Massoud with Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, and Numan Acar. It is scheduled to be released on May 24, 2019.

“Disney knows how to do it,” Smith said in a clip. “This is going to be beautiful.”

Disney has continued to exert its box office dominance in recent years with an array of live-action remakes of its animated films, including “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Jungle Book,” and last year’s “Beauty and the Beast,” which grossed $1.25 billion worldwide.


I’d like to introduce you to filmmaker and actor Mark Pirro. For those not familiar with his work, he is most known for making successful micro budget films. Most notably, A Polish Vampire in Burbank, which was shot for a modest budget of $2500. The film went on to make $500,000 when it was released in 1983. Recently, I did a Q&A with Mark to discuss his film career, and his latest film Celluloid Soul. I started by asking him about when he made A Polish Vampire in Burbank.

Marc Heller: Mark, you did this at a time when there wasn’t digital technology, and you had none of the advantages aspiring film makers have today. You lost your star, you had to cope with injuries from a car accident, and as time went on, you lost more people. What drove you to put this film together despite all of these obstacles?

Mark Pirro: Well, I guess it’s the same force that drives a drug addict to get his fix. I had a strong passion for filmmaking. Once I started Polish Vampire, from then on, my only goal was completing it. When Eddie Deezen, the original star of the film, left the project, I already had several days of filming invested in the movie and didn’t just want to call it a loss; so I regrouped, did a little re-writing of the script, jumped into the role myself, and kept forging ahead. Same thing for when I had gotten into the car accident. It was either about buying another car, or start taking the bus and finish the movie. I was in my early 20’s and didn’t really have a lot of money to bat around, so it was an either/or situation. I have to wonder if I would still have that kind of determination today. And yes, today’s technology has changed everything. Today, there is no excuse why a person can’t go out and make his own movie. Back in the day, it was budget. Not anymore. The big irony here is that my last five features cost less to make than my first one from 1983.

Marc:A decade after you released a Polish Vampire in Burbank, aspiring film maker Robert Rodriguez shot El Mariachi for $7,000. The film went on to become a multi million dollar franchise, and Rodriguez has gone on to become a very successful director. Do you feel that your successes as a director made it possible for other opportunities such as El Mariachi to become possible?

Mark: I doubt I had anything to do with it. A filmmaker will always figure out a way to get his project made. Polish Vampire may have been unique in that it was one of the first films, if not THE first film, shot for $2500, that actually got mainstream exposure on the home video market and on USA Network, but it was all about timing in that case. Home video recorders had just come along into the mainstream and distributors were looking for product. The studios were reluctant to give up many of their films for home viewing; so here comes a film, brand new, made exclusively for the home video market. That’s why it got snatched up so quickly.

Marc: I want to briefly go back to your time before the release of A Polish Vampire In Burbank. You were an aspiring filmmaker. You get a job at Universal studios, where you connect with like minded people. Together, you rent out a theatre and create a film festival. Your contribution is The Spy Who Did It Better, starring John McCafferty who would go on to frequently act in many of your other films. The film was an homage to James Bond, a franchise which we both love, sort of. I know you aren’t the biggest fan of Daniel Craig. So I have to ask, who is your favorite Bond?

Mark: No question about it: Sean Connery. He defined the role. You know when he dies, that’s what’s going to lead the story – the original James Bond. We based The Spy Who Did it Better solely on the Connery Bond movies, right down to his pose in the opening gun barrel scene. Even McCafferty’s fake accent was based on Connery’s voice. I even had the honor of meeting Barbara Broccoli around the time we were making the film. A tour guide friend, Eric Douglas, knew her, and she was working on a little super 8 film. He asked me if I would be willing to go to her house and help her with it. I was thrilled to. In fact, one evening John McCafferty and I went over to her house and watched “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” with her in 16mm (remember, there were no VCRs in wide use back then). Ahh sweet memories.

Marc: Am I correct that one of the filmmakers at that festival was Frank Darabont?

Mark: Yes. He made a short film called “The Maltese Mystery,” which was a Humphrey Bogart film noir spoof. Very well made. I met Frank when we both worked as ushers at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood in the late 70s. I knew he was a filmmaker too and when a fellow filmmaker and I put together the festival, which was dubbed by the L.A. Times as “The Poor People’s Film Festival,” I invited Darabont to be a part of it. I even helped him put in sound effects for the screening. The original film just had music and narration.

Marc: The Spy Who Did It Better was a short film, how was the process to transition from that to a full length movie?

Mark: Not a big transition. Really the only difference was that it just takes longer to make, and you need to rely on people sticking around a bit longer. In fact, when we started Polish Vampire, originally entitled Virgin Vampire, we weren’t sure it would be a feature. I think the original script was about 60 pages. It’s when Deezen quit and the script was retitled and rewritten that the movie’s length increased. I’ve since learned that you try to cast people you’re familiar with and know that they won’t flake out on you. I have very few flakey actors these days.

Marc: Moving forward, in 1987 you filmed Death Row Game Show, starring John McCafferty as a smarmy game show host in a role that seemed to be written for him. When you made the film, did you think that three decades later this would closely mirror how our society has become?

Mark: It is sort of where we’re headed, isn’t it? No, we were just out to make a fun little movie, with no pretensions. It was my first 35mm film and the first time someone else gave us money to spend, so it was just about getting through production without blowing it. It was a bit overwhelming, working with grip trucks, bigger lights, and some people trying to take advantage of our inexperience with the medium, but all in all a pleasant experience.

Marc: Vinegar Syndrome recently released an amazing blu ray of Death Row Game Show. They did a 2k restoration, and added a ton of special features including The Spy Who Did It Better in its entirety. How did this come about?

Mark: I got contacted by Vinegar Syndrome, who told me that they just acquired the rights to the film from Crown Pictures (the owner of the film). They asked if I’d be interested in doing a commentary for it. I had already done a commentary for an earlier release by a company called Code Red Video, but Vinegar Syndrome didn’t have the rights to that one. So I invited actors John McCafferty and Robyn Blythe to join me and we did a new commentary. It was easy to get them since we’ve stayed in touch all these years. Then Vinegar Syndrome asked me if I had any other material to include on the disk and I offered them a ‘making of’ documentary that I put together in 2013; and to complete the package, I offered them two short films that I made years earlier (both featuring McCafferty): The Spy Who Did It Better and a 22 minute comedy called Buns. I also gave them a remastered version of Deathrow Gameshow itself. There were a lot of technical issues with the film that I hated since 1987. Thanks to today’s technology, I was able to ‘fix’ a lot of the problems with the film; mainly audio problems and a few visual flaws. I would have preferred that the remastered version was the only one out there, but VS wanted to keep things pure, so they released the original flawed version. But at least they included the remastered version, so there’s some solace in that.

Marc: A notable name that pops up in your films is Forrest Ackerman, who was in Curse of the Queerwolf and Nudist Colony of the Dead. Did you have a relationship with him beyond your films, and what was it like to work with him?

Mark: He was the best. I met him through Plan 9 From Outer Space’s Conrad Brooks, who was also in a few of my films. After filming Polish Vampire, Conrad, who knew Forry, suggested we have a screening of it at his Ackermansion in Hollywood. We brought the film to his house and ran it. I told him that I was starting another film (Curse of the Queerwolf) and asked him what he would charge to appear in it. He said something like, “I’m cheaper than cheap.” In fact, he once quipped that if you can’t afford Vincent Price, you can get him for less the Price. He did Queerwolf for free, and Nudist Colony for nearly free. He loved doing cameos in movies, whether they had a budget or not. We stayed in touch over the years, pretty much right up until the end. In fact, he did the narration to the documentary on the making of Polish Vampire, and did the forward to my 1994 book on filmmaking: Ultra Low Budget Movie Making. Great guy. I miss him.

Marc: Modern filmmaking has changed a lot due to political correctness. Everyone is stepping on eggshells. Yet, you are not afraid to tackle subjects other people won’t touch. Most notably religion. How did God Complex come about?

Mark: I’ve always thought that religion was low hanging fruit when it comes to comedy, and had wanted to do some kind of religious parody for years. My film Nudist Colony of the Dead kind of danced around that concept, but that movie dealt more with religious zealots as opposed to God himself. Around 2007, I started writing a script called “Jesus Christ Conquers the Martians,” and that was going to be my religious parody. The concept was that citizens of Mars were getting too smart, so the Martian leaders decide they need something to ‘dumb them down.’ One of the leaders suggests that they borrow what’s kept people on Earth dumb for quite some time: Jesus. So they travel through time and space, kidnap Jesus right before he’s crucified, take him to Mars, and hilarity ensues.
Well, I got about half way through the script and then hit a roadblock in the story. The concept just ran out of steam. Once Jesus made it to Mars, the script didn’t really go anywhere. So, I switched gears and decided to go back to the Bible. I mean, there’s enough comedy in there to sustain a story, and that’s what I did. Following the Bible’s narrative, I made God a fat, bald, jealous, egotistical moron who can’t seem to get anything right, and really only does the crap he does to impress his girlfriend. Once I used that as a launching pad, the script just wrote itself. The movie covers many of the more popular Biblical myths: Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, Moses and the Burning Bush, the story of Job, Abraham and Isaac, and of course, the Virgin Mary and Jesus. Naturally, we took a few liberties with the stories (like Virgin Mary suing God for sexually molesting, and getting her pregnant, in “The Deity’s Court,” and an angel of God delivering the message of Jesus’ birth to Joseph as a singing telegram).

Marc: And how did you get the idea to make a talking Jesus toy?

Mark: The Submissive Jesus Pray Answering Talking Head. At the end of The God Complex, God and Jesus are forced to sign a contract not to interfere with science or intelligence ever again (which is why you haven’t heard much from them in over 2000 years). So to blend in, but not attract attention, they conceal themselves as employees of a Toy Factory. A toy being created under their noses is the Submissive Jesus, which answers your prayers by saying 1 of 100 random smart-ass phrases with the twist of his crown. Anyway, we had one made for the film, then I thought it might be a cool thing to mass produce a few more and market in the real world. So I had a batch made up, created a handful of commercials for it and started selling them at Almost 10 years later, we’re still selling those little holy bastards.

Marc: Speaking of ideas, do you have a creative process? Or do ideas like a giant killer ass just come to you?

Mark: I’m always trying to think concepts for stories. I think that’s one of the hardest parts of the creative process: coming up with something worth spending your time on. When I start a movie, I know I’m going to be spending at least two years of my life with it, so I want to be passionate about whatever project I pick. It’s like a relationship. If you know you’re going to be spending some lengthy time in this relationship, you had better be really in love with it. Sometimes one project can lead to another; for example, the movie Curse of the Queerwolf was inspired by a minor character in Polish Vampire in Burbank. There was a Queerwolf introduced in that film. The character always got great reactions at screenings, so that gave me the idea to create a whole movie based on that character. In the case of Nudist Colony of the Dead, we just started with a title and built from there.

Marc: Although you are known for fun movies like the films previously mentioned above, you also made movies about serious subjects. Color-Blinded addresses race issues.

Mark: That one came as a result of my dating Darwyn Carson, a black actress in several of my early films. She often spoke of how different her life, career, and relationships would be if she were a blue-eyed blonde. So, that gave me the idea of creating a movie about a beautiful black gal who one day wakes up as a beautiful blonde Caucasian woman. Up until Rage of Innocence, that was probably the closest thing to a movie of mine that had some human emotion attached to it, and required real acting – something that wasn’t a prerequisite to appearing in any of my earlier films.

Marc: And then there is Rage of Innocence. Which is a complete 360 from what we are used to seeing from you. It’s a really powerful film. How did Rage of Innocence come about, and will we see more films like this from you in the future?

Mark: Don’t you mean 180? 360 brings you back to where you started. Screw it, what do I know about math? Where was I? Oh yeah. Having made nothing but comedies for over 30 years, I guess my comedic well started drying up. So rather than fight it and continue struggling with attempting to come up with another funny film, I decided to follow the darker path and see where that would lead me. It led me to Rage of Innocence, the story of a 15 year old sociopath named Raven who will stop at nothing to keep men from dating her single mother.
Oddly enough, with the #metoo and #timesup movements, the movie seems to suddenly be rather timely. I mean, there are many careers that have been lost by accusations of sexual misconduct, without any judge or jury trial. Rage of Innocence kind of takes on that same concept. In that film, Raven, becomes the main antagonist to a man who starts dating her mother, against Raven’s wishes. She knows exactly how to frame our hero, and making it look like he does things that he of course never did. She’s so good at it that he ends up getting his 13 year old daughter taken away from him, and gets sent to jail; all because of Raven’s convincing accusations – with forensic proof to back it up. That’s a pretty terrifying concept, I think. As far as the future goes and will I make any more films like this one? It’s difficult to say. I really never know what’s next. Over the last 15 years or so, I’ve often said that each movie I finish will very likely be my last one. Then another project comes along that tickles my fancy. Right now, at this moment, I’m not all that ticklish.

(Author’s note, he is correct, I meant 180, I will hang my head down in shame now)

Marc: Your latest project is Celluloid Soul, which features comedy legend Judy Tenuta. Can you tell me a little bit about this film and how people can see it?

Mark: Celluloid Soul is about a suicidal writer who has just lost his girlfriend, and is depressed and lonely. He happens to become fascinated with this actress from a couple 1939 movies he watches at a friend’s house. He becomes obsessed with finding out who this unknown actress was and whatever became of her. He eventually finds out that she’s still alive, although about 98 years old. He gets her on the phone and becomes inspired to write a screenplay about her life.
After writing a great script, he convinces her to meet with him. She’s reluctant at first, but eventually agrees. To his surprise, when she shows up on his doorstep, she looks exactly as she did in the 1939 movies; completely in black and white with moving vertical scratches going through her. He, of course, believes he’s losing his mind, as do his friends.
Right now we’re looking into some kind of decent distribution for the film. The distribution game for indie films has changed dramatically over the years. A theatrical release is pretty much out of the question, and DVDs and BluRays are sort of becoming yesterday’s medium. Streaming on demand video seems to be the way these days, although unless it really takes off, there’s not a lot of money in it. Film Festivals are sometimes good exposure, but I’m not a big fan of them. What annoys me about festivals is that one winds up spending more than the budget of the movie just to submit and in many cases, get rejected.

Marc: And can you tell us what it’s like to work with Judy?

Mark The best. I’ve made several short videos with her over the past few years. They’re called “The World Accordion to Judy,” and they cover all kinds of topics. You can find the entire series of videos on Youtube. We also made a bunch of Trump parody videos, where I play the moron and she plays his wife, Malaria. We’ve done a few music videos, etc. She’s a joy to work with. When I asked her if she’d like to appear in Celluloid Soul, she agreed to do it. I’ll always be grateful for her adding a touch of elegance to the film.

Marc: Is there anything else you would like to mention? Are there any other upcoming projects?

Mark: Nothing concrete at the moment. I’ve considered remaking or somehow revisiting Nudist Colony of the Dead, since I was never really all that satisfied with the original film. Technology has come a long way. When we made the original film, back in 1991, we were using the crappiest super 8 equipment imaginable. We were lucky if we even got a decent exposure, and many times we didn’t. We also didn’t have the best singers and dancers, and since it was a musical…well…good singers and dancers could have been a worthy asset. However, if I were to revisit this film, I wouldn’t want to do it again on a micro-budget. There’d be little point. That film needs someone like Tim Burton to get involved.

Marc: Where can people find your movies and connect with you?

Mark: They can always go through my website – I’m also on Facebook, like the rest of the world. In addition, many of my films are on Amazon Prime and Amazon Instant. DVDs are all over Ebay. And, as of this time, my representatives are busily trying to secure other streaming outlets. Also, if your readers would like to have all their prayers answered and possess all the power of God, they can get a Submissive Jesus Prayer Answering Talking Head at  That is all and God B. Less.



Philip Mantle interviews Film Director Francis Xavier.

I’ve been in contact with movie director Francis Xavier for several years now and I was interested to hear that he now had in development a new alien abduction movie. I contacted Francis to see if he was able to talk about his new project and was pleased to hear that he was. Francis was only too happy to give me a few minutes of his time for a quick Q and A session.


Q: Who is Francis Xavier, please tell us something about yourself ?

A: Known for his unpredictable, violent films, Writer, Producer, Director Francis Xavier first earned widespread fame for his directorial feature film ‘Barry’s Gift’ before going on to direct the controversial Johnny Come Lately.


Born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1962, Xavier moved to California in 2008 to continue his love of making movies during which time he wrote and directed both the psychological thriller Never On Sunday and the award winning horror film Poe. Xavier’s directorial debut came with the award winning feature film Barry’s Gift (2000), for which he won awards for best screenplay and best director at The Greenbelt Film Festival in Maryland, the film was also an official selection at the 2000 Maryland Film Festival in which he was in competition with Oscar winning director Barry Levinson (Rain Man) and director Eduardo Sanchez (Blair Witch Project). Next he would receive widespread critical and commercial acclaim with the controversial psychological thriller Johnny Come Lately (2004). Subsequent features include the trilogy Night Cry (2005), the thriller The Tango Dancer (2006), the award winning urban drama Dodge City (2007), directing Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winning actress Sally Kirkland (Anna/JFK) in the film, The Ear of the Beholder (2008) and writings and directing the psychological thriller Never On Sunday (2009). Xavier earned several awards for the horror film Poe (2012) including best screenplay at the Los Angeles Feature Film and Screenplay Film Festival and winner of the 2012 Screen Actors Guild Roll Film Festival and soon after writing and directing the supernatural thriller Less Than A Whisper (2015), the latter being the director’s latest effort and was an official selection at the 2015 Film-Com event in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition, the filmmaker has directed over 50 commercials including Budweiser and Nestle, 4 short films and 10 music videos including 2 music videos for Taylor Swift’s Cray Cray for Tay Tay merchandise company.

Q: So when did you first get into movies ?

A: Back in the 60’s and 70’s my mother owned a movie theatre in my hometown of Baltimore City, Maryland called The Tower Theatre and from the time I was born I was watching movies because my mother would take me to work with her everyday. I grew up watching many great films there and they loomed larger than life on the big screen for me. Then in 1973 a film would premiere at my mother’s theatre that would change my life forever and would put me on course to make my own. That movie was William Friedkin’s The Exorcist.

Q: How many movies have you worked on so far and in what capacity ?

A: I have written, produced, edited and directed eight feature films, my latest being the supernatural thriller ‘Less Than A Whisper’. I actually play the lead role in the film.

Q: You now have a movie in development with Lark Entertainment based on Robert E. Dunn’s book BEHIND THE DARKNESS. Can you tell us about this project please ?


A: I met Robert E. Dunn about 2 years ago when we first discussed his alien abduction novel Behind The Darkness and me possibly writing the screenplay from the novel.  I read the novel and loved it and thought to myself Behind The Darkness would make a great scary film.  Through one seemingly endless night four friends find themselves surrounded, and at the mercy of nameless, unseen aliens. Desperation makes for difficult choices and even more difficult actions as two men learn just who they must be to fight the creatures behind the darkness.


What follows is a violent battle for survival that will change everyone forever. Imagine Behind The Darkness as Night of the Living dead with aliens rather than zombies. Behind The Darkness is a survivor story of resistance against impossible odds. I wrote the screenplay and took it to the American Film Market last November. The screenplay is currently in the development department at Lakeshore International.

Q: Have you always been interested in the UFO subject or is this
something new for you ?


A: I’ve always been interested in UFOs and aliens. I’m a true believer in the subject and have a missing time story of my own to tell. But that’s a whole different interview. Trust me, it’s my true alien abduction story I will tell someday.

Q: How do you think the UFO community will react to this movie ?

A: I think the community would react rather well with the story and the movie. It’s no secret that the government has been hiding UFO and alien disclosure from us for decades. We are not alone, and I’m living proof of that. Maybe we can do a follow-up interview soon so we can talk about my missing times. Thanks to organizations like MUFON, and people like Dr. Steven Greer, Linda Moulton Howe and also you Philip, to get the word out to the community that we are not alone. I think people would be able to relate to Behind The Darkness because the characters are everyday real people put in a situation unlike any human beings would want to experience. These are not dumb characters. It’s very hard for the government and filmmakers to fool people and an audience these days.


Q: Now I know this movie is still in development but when can we
expect to see it released ?


A: If everything goes well for the studio development of Behind The Darkness, I can see a release date of late 2019.

Q; Do you have a favorite UFO movie at all ?


A: My all time favorite UFO movies are John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ and ‘Alien 1 and 2’.

Q: I have to ask this, have you ever had a UFO sighting yourself ?


A: Absolutely, many to be exact. My last sighting, witnessing a cluster of UFOs in the daytime in Van Nuys, California in 2009 and I wasn’t alone. They were right over my house until fighter jets appeared and the UFOs just simply disappeared right before our eyes. My 2001 missing time experience was scary enough. But that’s a whole different interview lol.




Behind The Darkness Billboard Trailer

I would like to thank Francis Xavier for giving up his time for this Q and A session and would like to take this opportunity to wish him well with all of his new projects.


About the author:

Philip Mantle is a long standing UFO researcher and author from the UK. He was formerly the Director of Investigations for the British UFO Research Association and the MUFON Representative for England. He is the founder of FLYING DISK PRESS


Steven Spielberg’s ‘Ready Player One’ Crosses $500 Million Worldwide

Steven Spielberg’s latest film, Ready Player One has earned more than $500 million for Warner Bros. around the globe, with a large portion emanating from China.

Ready Player One is also now the 10th-largest Chinese grosser for Warner Bros, earning more than $200 million from the country. The action-sci fi’s opening marked Warner Bros.’ largest ever in the nation with $61 million. On top of the earnings from China, the film has taken in another $179 million from foreign markets. It opened in Japan this weekend, completing its international rollout.

Domestically, “Ready Player One” has brought in more than $120 million.

Tye Sheridan stars in the film alongside Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe and T.J. Miller. Zak Penn and Ernest Cline wrote the script, based on Cline’s bestselling novel of the same name. Sheridan plays a young man living in 2045 Ohio who also leads a dual life in the virtual reality game Oasis, where many find respite from a difficult reality in a second life.

The film was produced by Donald De Line, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Spielberg and Dan Farah. Adam Somner, Daniel Lupi, Chris deFaria and Bruce Berman served as executive producers.

Spielberg became the first director whose films’ grosses topped more than $10 billion earlier this week, with “Ready Player One” marking the director’s highest-grossing film of the last 10 years. Not adjusted for inflation, Spielberg’s biggest earner was 1993’s “Jurassic Park” with $983.8 million globally.


Ash vs. Evil Dead’ Canceled at Starz After Three Seasons

Ash vs. Evil Dead has been canceled at Starz

The series will air its third season finale on April 29, which will now serve as the series finale. The series saw Bruce Campbell reprise the role of Ash Williams, the chainsaw-wielding anti-hero tasked with saving the world from evil in the “Evil Dead” film franchise. The series also starred Dana DeLorenzo, Ray Santiago, and Lucy Lawless.

The third season saw Ash, having gone from murderous urban legend to humanity-saving hometown hero, discovering that he has a long-lost daughter who has been entrusted in his care. Meanwhile, Kelly (DeLorenzo) witnessed a televised massacre with Ruby’s (Lawless) fingerprints all over it, and she returned with a new friend to warn Ash and Pablo (Santiago) that evil wasn’t done with them yet.

Campbell was also an executive producer on the series, along with Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert from the original film franchise. The show had seen a steep fall off in its ratings during Season 3, averaging just a 0.08 rating in adults 18-49 and 177,000 viewers per episode with two episodes remaining in the season.

Starz current originals slate includes “Power,” “American Gods,” and “Counterpart.” They will also launch the shows “Sweetbitter” and “Vida” in May. The premium cabler previously canceled the comedy “Survivor’s Remorse” back in October after four seasons.


Verne Troyer, Mini-Me in ‘Austin Powers,’ Dies at 49

Mandatory Credit: Photo by MediaPunch/REX/Shutterstock (8963067p)
Verne Troyer
Starkey Hearing Foundation Awards Gala, Arrivals, St.Paul, USA – 16 Jul 2017

Verne Troyer, the actor best known for playing Mini-Me in the Austin Power films and one of the shortest men in the world, has died. He was 49.

The news was announced in a post to his official Facebook page.

“It is with great sadness and incredible heavy hearts to write that Verne passed away today,” the statement reads. “Verne was an extremely caring individual…[he] hoped he made a positive change with the platform he had and worked towards spreading that message everyday.”

In addition to his credits in “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” and “Austin Power in Goldmember,” Troyer also acted in the first Harry Potter film as Griphook the goblin. He had more than 25 other film credits to his name, including roles in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” “The Love Guru,” and “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.”

Born January 1, 1969 in Michigan, Troyer was raised in the Amish faith for a time, but his parents eventually left the religion. He graduated from Centreville High School in 1987.

Troyer’s unusual height of 2’8″ was a result of achondroplasia dwarfism. He has stated that his parents “never treated me any different than my other average-sized siblings. I used to have to carry wood, feed the cows and pigs and farm animals.”

Read the full announcement of Troyer’s death below.

“It is with great sadness and incredibly heavy hearts to write that Verne passed away today.

Verne was an extremely caring individual. He wanted to make everyone smile, be happy, and laugh. Anybody in need, he would help to any extent possible. Verne hoped he made a positive change with the platform he had and worked towards spreading that message everyday.

He inspired people around the world with his drive, determination, and attitude. On film & television sets, commercial shoots, at comic-con’s & personal appearances, to his own YouTube videos, he was there to show everyone what he was capable of doing. Even though his stature was small and his parents often wondered if he’d be able to reach up and open doors on his own in his life, he went on to open more doors for himself and others than anyone could have imagined. He also touched more peoples hearts than he will ever know.

Verne was also a fighter when it came to his own battles. Over the years he’s struggled and won, struggled and won, struggled and fought some more, but unfortunately this time was too much.

During this recent time of adversity he was baptized while surrounded by his family. The family appreciates that they have this time to grieve privately.

Depression and Suicide are very serious issues. You never know what kind of battle someone is going through inside. Be kind to one another. And always know, it’s never too late to reach out to someone for help.

In lieu of flowers, please feel free to make a donation in Verne’s name to either of his two favorite charities; The Starkey Hearing Foundation and Best Buddies.”


Weinstein Co. Adds Board Member to Navigate Bankruptcy Sale

The Weinstein Co., which is two weeks away from a bankruptcy auction, appointed a new board member on Friday who will weigh in on the sale.

Ivona Smith is a consultant at Drivetrain Advisors, a firm that provides independent board service for companies in bankruptcy. According to a statement on Friday night from the Weinstein Co., Smith was added at the urging of the committee of unsecured creditors. The five-member committee includes an actress and former Weinstein Co. employee who have filed suits accusing Harvey Weistein  of sexual misconduct.

The committee is seeking to maximize the value of the Weinstein Co. estate, providing the largest possible return for creditors. In addition to Weinstein’s victims, the unsecured creditors include numerous law firms, studios, and vendors.

“We are delighted to welcome Ms. Smith to our Board,” Bob Weinstein, the company chairman, said in a statement. “Ms. Smith brings not only substantial expertise in the bankruptcy sale process, but also enhanced transparency toward [the] Board’s goal of maximizing value for the benefit of all stakeholders.”

Smith has 20 years of experience in distressed investment. The other board members are Tarak Ben Ammar, Lance Maerov, and Frank Rainone.

Lantern Capital has submitted a stalking horse bid of $310 million, plus assumption of debt, for the company. Lantern, based in Dallas, intends to keep the company going. Other bidders are said to be solely interested in the company’s 277-title library. Bids are due on April 30.