Judge Reinhold Talks ‘Over Her Dead Body’, ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ and More!
Judge Reinhold has an impressive list of work, spanning almost 40 years and over 75 film and TV shows including Stripes, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Ruthless People, and Disney’s Christmas franchise, The Santa Clause 1, 2 & 3. Beverly Hills Cop 1, 2, 3. In 1994, Reinhold was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series on an episode of Seinfeld.
Judge Reinhold will be headlining the 2018 Rome International Film Festival with two special screenings throughout the weekend: Over Her Dead Body (originally titled Enid is Sleeping’) and the comedy classic Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The festival runs Nov. 1 – 4.
Take a look at our interview with Judge below.
You made ‘Over Her Dead Body’ with Elizabeth Perkins. Can you talk about your experience making that film and working with Elizabeth?
Judge: We made the film in 1990. The film company that did Dirty Dancing, Vestron, was a small company but because of Dirty Dancing, they had over 200 million dollars to invest in. They didn’t invest wisely, and they went through that money very quickly. Ours was the last Vestron movie to be made. The money was in escrow to finish it, but the company went under while we were making the film. We had the money to finish the film, but we didn’t have a distributor. I’m very proud of the movie because it’s very funny. The problem was other distributors wanted the film, but the problem was that Vestron wanted these other distributors to buy their whole film library. To which everyone said no way, so our movie never got a release. Years later it came out on video, and it had Elizabeth’s face over someone else’s body, with a low neckline and my face plastered on someone else’s body that was really well built. It was the worse thing that I have ever seen, and Elizabeth wanted to sue them. We were both pretty upset about that because we were both proud of the film. It’s a dark comedy that takes place in a fictitious New Mexican town. It’s a little broader in tone than a Coen brothers film. It farcical but that doesn’t mean it’s not funny. It’s only played once in front of an audience at the Durango Film Festival. It played for an audience of 200 people, and it felt like the film had been exhumed. I stood in the back and watched the people laugh, which was satisfying for me because I knew it was funny. Elizabeth was terrific in it. I feel that there was real chemistry between the two of us. I feel that films can be maligned when there isn’t that chemistry between the two leads. I thought we were really well pared and we played off each other really well, which is one of the reasons I’m really proud of the film. The film takes place over one night and for film buffs we have a terrific supporting cast including Michael J. Pollard, who was in ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ who plays a motel clerk, the great Henry Jones, who was a great character actor appearing in over 200 films, and Brian James, who almost steals the movie as a drunken trucker that stalks Elizabeth’s character. He shows up at inopportune times and is just hysterical. The film was directed by Maurice Phillips, who is known for directing some classic music videos. I am proud of the film because it’s entertaining and funny. I am thrilled that it is going to shown at the Rome International Film Festival. They asked me what I wanted to show and I told them this film which I am thrilled to see with a live audience.
‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ was picked by the American Film Institute as one of the /Top 100 American Comedies.’ Why do you think it became such a classic?
Judge: I can answer the question specifically. When you take into account that the screenwriter, Cameron Crowe, masqueraded as a senior at an actual high school. He told me that some of the dialogue in the film was taken from real conversations. When Damone (Robert Romanus) is telling his buddy how to get a girl, Cameron heard that conversation and put it in the film verbatim. He heard the conversation and then ran to the bathroom to write it down. So, I think the answer to why it is such a classic is that most of the dialogue was actually said by teenagers and the people were real. Cameron to this day won’t tell me who Brad Hamilton really is and he never will because he has too much integrity. The whole film is about things that really happened that Cameron observed throughout that year that Cameron was at the high school. The only person at that high school that knew that Cameron wasn’t really a student there was the Principal.
The other reason is kind of an accident. It’s very rare when you get a screenwriter and a director completely click together. Cameron had a real authenticity for kids, how they acted and talked and Amy Heckerling, the director was so wonderful. She kind of spoiled me for other directors. To this day Amy is one of the best directors I have ever worked with. She is such a great audience and created such a consistent tone following the script exactly. A consistent tone is so important because there are so many stories in this film. There’s Stacey’s (Jennifer Jason Leigh) problems, and mine all as Brad who is having the worst year of his life. I thought the film didn’t get it’s due for being as adventurous as it is. I wouldn’t call Amy a feminist, I’d call her a renegade. She wasn’t carrying a torch for feminism, she was just questioned stuff like female sexuality that was true to girls. She made a very different film than what kind of movies were being made at that time, like Porky’s. Cameron and Amy were a match made in heaven, they totally got it. It was such a happy set to work on. Besides Amy and Cameron, another person that was influential in its success was the producer Art Linson. He protected those guys, and the three of them made such a great audience. I was a very special set. I learned a lot about producing from Art. I remember asking Art what a producer does, and he said ‘whatever it takes.’ Universal got really nervous about the R rating, thinking that teenagers wouldn’t be able to see the movie. Art did everything he could to convince the studio to release the film wide with the R rating. Art went to the music side of Universal and convinced Irving Azoff, one of the biggest music producers out there to put artists like Jackson Browne and Tom Petty on the soundtrack. That way Universal would make back some of the costs of the film with this great soundtrack. I don’t know if this is true, but I have wondered, due to his Rolling Stone writing background, if Cameron helped pick the songs for the film.
One of my favorite films is ‘Stripes’, which you made early in your career. Do you have any stories about one of my favorite actors, John Candy?
Judge: First of all, a lot of people don’t know that the original script was titled ‘Cheech and Chong Go to the Army.’ Columbia really wanted them but their manager, who must have been out of his mind, made demands that they would do the movie if they got a cut of all of Columbia’s future projects. So they backed down, and Columbia really wanted to make the film. The director of the film, Ivan Reitman, approached Bill Murray, right after Bill had made ‘Meatballs,’ which made it obvious that he was going to be a major movie star. Bill asked for Harold Ramis to be in the film and that the two of them would re-write the script. They were writing the script as we were filming. Harold and Bill would go into their trailer and re-write while we were blocking the camera for the next shot. They would then come out of the trailer with some just outlandish stuff. The film is just brilliantly funny. That’s how Bill protected himself and made this superb, enduring movie.
There is an outtake scene that survived the Cheech and Chong script where the guys get on a plane and parachute out of it and land in an area occupied by a Latin gorilla group. They do some peyote, start dancing and getting blasted with the soldiers. We did shoot the scene, but it just didn’t fit in with the rest of the movie.
John Candy continues to be on of the best people I ever knew in or out of the business. His heart was huge and wide open. He was very generous and encouraging with me. I was scared to death, 21 years old and ‘Stripes’ was my first big movie. I was amazed about how much money was being spent, how big the scope of the film was and John would just take me into his trailer and laugh. John asked if I had an agent or a manager and then offered to connect me with the guy at Second City Comedy Troupe. That’s kind of person he was, he was an encourager. John was the ultimate extrovert, all his attention was on other people. He was just terrific. Here’s what kind of guy John was; when you went to his house in L.A. there were movie posters up, but they weren’t his movies, they were his friend’s movie posters. He had one of my movies hanging on his wall at his home. When you walked into his trailer, you never knew who was going to be there. It could be the groundskeeper, a cameraman, a big star or a movie executive, maybe even a farmer from down the road. His trailer always was like walking into the United Nations.
I have one funny story about him. We were shooting in Kentucky at an army base, and I had the unfortunate position of having to tell John that we were in a ‘dry’ county. He thought I was kidding when I told him that the county we were staying in didn’t sell alcohol. I told him, you can’t buy alcohol here, and he started laughing and said ‘Yeah, right!’ He didn’t believe me and had to ask someone else to confirm it. He loved his Molson beer being the ultimate Canadian. He ended up getting a second room and storing his Molson beer in the tub there for himself and anyone else who wanted a beer.
In the movie we get our hair shaved off, so we would go into town and try and pick up girls. We would tell them that we were making a Bill Murray movie and they wouldn’t believe us, they thought we were in the actual army at basic training. John would then tell them we really were in the film and then he would ask if they had seen SCTV, the TV show he was in at the time, and they wouldn’t know what that was. After making that film, I became a rabid fan of SCTV which came on after Saturday Night Live.
We hope you have a great time at the Rome International Film Festival Judge!
For more information on the Rome International Film Festival go to www.riffga.com.
Great interview! He seems such an articulate, funny guy. And such a memory! Thanks for this.