Written by: Michael Den Boer on April 24th, 2009
Recently I had a chance to chat with writer /director Mark Griffiths whose diverse filmography includes films like Lucky 13, Hardbodies and Behind Enemy Lines.
Michael Den Boer: What are some films or filmmakers that have influenced you as a filmmaker?
Mark Griffiths: At the time I made Lucky 13, my favorite film was Murmur of the Heart by Louis Malle. Although having gone to UCLA film school where the screenings were plentiful I watched the classics over and over again. I never tire of Welles, Hawkes, Ford, etc. I have always loved films that mix comedy with pathos. And Lucky 13 has a healthy dose of comedy.
Michael Den Boer: Your first film Lucky 13 was a dramatic thriller. While your second film Hardbodies is a raunchy sex comedy. Was this a conscious choice on your part to work in more than one genre?
Mark Griffiths: I am happy that I have never been typecast in one genre as so many filmmakers are.
Michael Den Boer: How did you become involved with Hardbodies?
Mark Griffiths: We made Hardbodies on a shoestring and never expected it to be released widely (1900 theaters) by Columbia Pictures. Jeff Begun brought onto the film.
Michael Den Boer: Casting wise I can’t imagine anyone else in the role of Rag. What was it like to work with Courtney Gains in one of his first feature films?
Mark Griffiths: I had known Courtney for three years before we made HB — he was in an acting class that I visited to redirect scenes. That’s also where I met Sorrells. I precast both of them, knowing their work and range.
Michael Den Boer: Besides the two colorful lead characters Scotty and Rag. One of the most enjoyable aspects of Hardbodies is its clever dialog. Was the entire dialog in the film as it appeared in the screenplay or was any of it ad lib?
Mark Griffiths: I told Court about the scene in HB where he flips off the geeks and asked him to come up with a routine of flip-offs from around the world. While he was off film Children of the Corn he worked it out. Most of the lines in the film were scripted, but we did improv where necessary. It helped that I knew Court and Sorrells — I tailored their lines to what I knew they could pull off.
Michael Den Boer: Hardbodies was originally intended to be a movie made specifically for Playboy TV. After working with New line Cinema on Lucky 13 were you ever apprehensive working again with (Columbia Pictures) a major studio again.
Mark Griffiths: Since both Lucky 13 and HB were pick-ups, I never actually worked for either New Line or Columbia, except in re-cuts after previews (in the case Columbia). The deal in place with Playboy TV was bought out when Columbia came on board.
Michael Den Boer: The all female rock band Vixen makes an appearance in Hardbodies and they also appear on the soundtrack for the film. How did they become involved in the film?
Mark Griffiths: Vixen was a band that our music supervisor found. They hadn’t had any hits, although we used songs off their album as playback to film scenes to.
Michael Den Boer: Looking back on Hardbodies is there anything that you would have done differently?
Mark Griffiths: Looking back at Hardbodies, I can’t imagine doing anything differently — it’s all too far in the past to linger over.
Michael Den Boer: When originally released was Hardbodies successful?
Mark Griffiths: The original release of HB did all right. It really hit the big time on home video and cable. It was early in the video boom and sold very solidly.
Michael Den Boer: Are there any plans for a DVD release for Hardbodies anytime in the near future?
Mark Griffiths: As far as I know there are no plans for Columbia, who own the film, to release it on DVD — although I suspect it would still do well.
Michael Den Boer: After Hardbodies, did you intend on making a sequel?
Mark Griffiths: I hadn’t intended to make a sequel to HB, but that’s where typecasting comes in, even for directors. I was seen suddenly as a “beach-movie director” and couldn’t get anything else going — so when the offer came to make a sequel I took it.
Michael Den Boer: For Hardbodies 2 all but two of the original cast was recast. Was there some hesitation in making a sequel with new actors in familiar roles?
Mark Griffiths: HB2 was shot in Greece and if nothing else we all had a ball filming it – although it is one of my least favorite films. Grant Cramer, the original Scotty, didn’t want to be typecast and turned them done for the sequel. Courtney wanted to do it, but had problems getting a passport and couldn’t get over in time for the shoot. Courtney is an original and there was no way to find someone to fill his role — so we went with someone entirely different.
Michael Den Boer: You have worked with Sorrells Pickard’s in a total of four films, Lucky 13, Hardbodies, Hardbodies 2 and Ultraviolet. What do you remember most about working with Sorrell?
Mark Griffiths: Working with Sorrells was always filled with laughs. He was a fun, loveable, big-hearted Southern songwriter/performer. He could pull off lines that nobody else could touch. And bring a laugh to almost any situation. He died several years ago and I miss him. He had Great Spirit and was always totally cooperative.
Michael Den Boer: After directing two comedies, you once again shifted direction this time into the action genre making seven films in nine years. Was action cinema a genre that you enjoyed working in?
Mark Griffiths: I enjoyed trying the action genre, although it didn’t come naturally — too serious most of the time. And hard to get heart in between all those explosions and bullets.
Michael Den Boer: What do you remember about working with Rutger Hauer on your 1998 film Tactical Assault?
Mark Griffiths: Rutgar Hauer in TA always knew exactly what he wanted to do. At the time, his name got movies made and run on HBO — and he used this knowledge to do exactly what he wanted to do on the set. I can’t blame him — he was well paid to be king of the cable movie and expected to be treated like royalty.
Michael Den Boer: In 1997 you would once again work with Courtney Gains on Behind Enemy Lines. What was it like working with him again?
Mark Griffiths: It was fun reuniting with Court on Behind Enemy Lines. Unfortunately he sprained his ankle badly and was in a sour mood when it came to running — which is pretty much what the movie was about. Running from explosions and gunfire.
Michael Den Boer: To date you have directed twenty four films. How do you go about deciding what your next project will be?
Mark Griffiths: I’ve done 24 movies and never know what is next. I choose movies based on serendipity and sweat.
A special thanks to Mark Griffiths for taking the time to answer my questions and Code Red’s William Norton for helping set up this interview.