Gavin Schmitt Interviews Diane Franklin
Before she got into acting, Diane Franklin appeared in TV commercials for Coca-Cola, Trident, Jell-O, and Maxwell House coffee. Her first film role was in the 1982 film The Last American Virgin (affiliate link) as Karen. Diane’s other well known roles in movies are in the 1982 horror film Amityville II: The Possession (affiliate link) as Patricia Montelli. She also had a role in the 1985 comedy film Better Off Dead (affiliate link) as Monique, the foreign exchange student from France. Horror fans will know her from TerrorVision (affiliate link), and who can forget her role as one of the princesses (Joanna) in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (affiliate link)?
I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with Diane on March 25, 2011 at HorrorHound Weekend in Indianapolis and chatting briefly about her work in the horror and fantasy business. Until her tell-all book comes out (hopefully soon), you got the inside scoop here first!
Diane Franklin and Gavin, 2011
GS: “Amityville II” was directed by Damiano Damiani…
DF: Damiano Damiani, yeah. It’s a great name.
GS: American audiences may not know him, but he has a long career in Italy making police exploitation films and such. What was he like to work with? Was there a language barrier?
DF: Oh, interesting, yes. I remember he had a very thick accent. But I think it worked for the film in that I had to listen very carefully to him. He had kind of a gruff manner, but he knew what he wanted. He was very specific. With his use of the language, he was able to get his point across and that was good. It might have been hard for him, in a way, to work with Americans.
GS: I do believe that was his first American film. And part of the subject matter is questionable. What was your reaction when you read the script?
DF: Well, I’m writing this book on my life and one of the things I really focus on is every film I’ve done, and I get into that in more detail. But, to me, that subject matter certainly wasn’t something I was promoting. (laughs) I don’t think that’s something you go around saying “I really want to do that.” But I would say I think it made the story creepier, and it was unique, and everybody remembers it. From a writing standpoint, the shock value of it was something they had to get into the film. From the actor’s point of view… I’m going to keep that for my book. (laughs)
GS: That’s perfectly fine. You were in “Better Off Dead”…
GS: My only question is, do you speak French?
DF: I know a little French and I took French in school, but I love languages so I can pick it up pretty easily. I added some of the French in the film, because I felt that when someone gets upset they go to their native language and it was important to have real French in there.
GS: “TerrorVision” was filmed in Italy and produced by Charlie Band. Lots of people have terrible stories of Charlie Band…
DF: Oh, okay, then I have a good story. Charlie Band was always nice to me, and I think he really liked ‘TerrorVision’ (affiliate link). I think it was one of his pet projects. I had no problems with him, he was very nice to me, and I liked him. It was great. He was super nice.
GS: The special effects crew was top-notch: John Carl Buechler, Robert Kurtzman and John Vulich. All of them have gone on to amazing careers. Did you spend much time with them?
DF: I did. And I really have to get their names down, because I did spend time with them. And I was really just in awe of their ability to make this creature. It’s so realistic, very animated. The film was cartoony, kind of campy.
GS: It’s definitely not a serious film.
DF: Right. So I find it interesting that today creatures are done with a blue screen, and very rarely does an actor get to see the monster or interact with it. I got to act with it. And it was great with the goo, and it was really fun for me as an actress to work with something that was so disgusting and so cute at the same time. They were amazing. I had never worked on a film with that level of special effects before, and I really love and respect what they do.
GS: And Jon Gries (pronounced “Grice”) played your boyfriend in the movie…
DF: He was great. And you know he did ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ (affiliate link), right?
GS: That is probably where I know him best, besides maybe “Monster Squad”.
DF: Right. Jon is so creative. Here we are, all the way out there in Italy, and he’s playing O.D. and he did this great voice. It was a stoner dude voice, sort of like Bill and Ted (affiliate link), but he looked heavy metal. And he had a very military “yes sir” kind of dialogue. So what I loved about it… his character was very imaginative, and I liked that he used that combination of things in his character. It wasn’t just a rocker and that’s it. He had his own take on it, and he had fun. And fun was what that movie was all about. I had a great time working with him.
GS: And we move to “Bill and Ted”…
DF: I wish I had more time on that film, more time working on that film. They would call me in, shoot my shots with the guys, but we never had all that much time to hang out. They made me laugh. It was hard not to laugh. And I love seeing Keanu now taking on such serious stuff, but I think he was more endearing in that part than anything else he’s done. I believe playing Ted is what got him his following. And Alex was so smart, I could see his directing ability right away. I could see him thinking of shots.
GS: Along those same lines, if you had to guess then, would you have thought that Keanu and Alex would have ended up where they are now?
DF: With Keanu, no. I never would have thought that he would have ended up doing dramas or “The Matrix” or any of that. Never. I think I thought he would do more comedy, but based on his personality… I don’t know, I didn’t know him that well. But Alex, I saw the directing. Even being in front of the camera, he was thinking about the shots and he always wanted to make the shots better that we were all in. He was very into the technical, behind-the-scenes stuff. He was funny, too, but you don’t often see the interest in technical things from an actor and that’s why it stands out in my mind. When I found out he was a director, I thought that made sense.
GS: And did you get to work with George Carlin at all?
DF: Yes I did. George was a wonderful man. He was sweet, really sweet. I had seen him while I was growing up, and I was ready for more of his acerbic sense of humor. He’s so gracious, and really kind to the other actors. Very friendly. He’s obviously very funny, but I was surprised at how much of a genteel and sweet person he was.
GS: So you would say his on-stage persona is not really who he was?
DF: I think it maybe depends on who he was hanging around with. Maybe when he is on set or on stage he is different, but he certainly didn’t have to ride his sense of humor all the time. I think he was just an awesomely opinionated person and said what he thought. Very honest, but I think he had enough of an ego that he didn’t have to pontificate all the time and show off. The word that keeps coming to mind is “sweet”. It may sound strange, but to me, he was sweet George Carlin. You wouldn’t normally think that, but that’s what I got from him.
GS: And we’re done! Thank you so much, Diane!
DF: Thank you. This was fun.