Interview: CRAIG SMITH

The name Peter Jackson is now legendary in the world of film, if for no other reason than the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. But horror fans know that before he was directing elves and hobbits, he was a low budget horror master. Before “Rings” came The Frighteners, before that Dead Alive and earlier still… Bad Taste. While low budget in every sense of the word, it has massed quite a fan following, even well before Jackson’s Hollywood career took off.

In early September 2010, I talked with Craig Smith, one of the cast members of “Bad Taste” and we reflected on a film that began almost thirty years ago… Craig was kind enough to answer any question I could throw at him, and I pass his words on to you…

GS: Rumor is that work on “Bad Taste” began as early as 1982… how did it get delayed for so long?

CS: Absolutely correct. We started talking about making a film and lots of ideas were thrown around. In the end we decided the best option would be to make a short film that could be screened at the Wellington Film Festival. Little did we suspect that our short film project would become “Bad Taste”. Not really a case of delay, more that we wanted to make sure we had a good story to tell.

GS: Have you been surprised with how strong the following for “Bad Taste” is now, almost 25 years later?

CS: Yes, absolutely. At the time all we could think about was getting the movie finished — we could never have imagined it’d still be attracting new fans after all these years. To be honest, it didn’t really do very well on its first release, so it was the video and then DVD release of the movie that kept it alive.

GS: Besides Giles, you played a third class alien. What is a “third class” alien?

CS: Whenever we weren’t playing our main character you’d find us running the camera, manning the boom mike, or being an SFX tech. Every now and again we’d have to don the alien costumes and become… the third class aliens.

GS: The barrel of water you were in was full of warm water (luckily). Did it make you want to… you know?

CS: Actually, I spent two long afternoons in that barrel and to pass the time between takes I’d snack on the fruit and veggies floating around in the marinade so, no, the thought didn’t cross my mind…

GS: You told another interviewer that over the course of filming, there were “two marriages, two nervous breakdowns, a divorce, one case of testicular cancer, and one death.” Can you elaborate on that?

CS: I really couldn’t – the point I was making in that interview is that we all had a lot of stuff happening in our lives at that time so it’s a minor miracle BT ever got finished. I’m pleased to advise that despite all the trauma we’re all still reasonably well balanced individuals – at least I hope we are!

GS: Which people from the film are you still friends with today? Who do you miss the most?

CS: We still keep in contact from time to time. We forged a strong bond over the four year production cycle and that doesn’t disappear just because we don’t see each other very often. After all, if we start to miss each other all we need to do is watch the DVD.

GS: How do you get the New Zealand Film Commission to sponsor a project?

CS: The starting point is a great script.

GS: To explode the car, you used two garbage bags full of gasoline (petrol) and two sticks of gelignite… what do the authorities think of such a stunt?

CS: Dunno – we made sure they didn’t find out about it.

GS: Can we declare “Bad Taste 2” officially dead, or should fans still hold on to a shred of hope?

CS: You never know – there may still be a story to tell. Never say never.

GS: Although you acted a handful of times after “Bad Taste”, you never worked with Peter Jackson again. Didn’t you ever get an urge to be a hobbit?

CS: Hmmm…

GS: Any plans for a 25th Aniversary Edition?

CS: We’re still waiting for the 20th Anniversary Edition to see the light of day….

GS: I have to ask… did you see Black Sheep, and what did you think of it?

CS: I’m sorry to say I haven’t seen “Black Sheep” yet – I don’t get back to New Zealand very often and its not readily available where I’m living at the moment.

GS: In general, do you think the filming industry has revived the New Zealand economy, or am I being way too hopeful?

CS: The film industry makes an important contribution to the economy in terms of job creation and so on, but we should always bear in mind that a significant proportion of investment and profit is owned by off shore corporations.

GS: Here’s a good time to plug any future projects or films that didn’t get the attention they deserved… what message would you like to leave for the fans?

CS: Make the most of every opportunity that comes your way and explore every possibility.

GS: Thank you, Craig, and thanks for “Bad Taste”!

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