JOHN LANDIS
Interview by Wayne Chinsang
Illustration by Fphatty Lamar

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THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE. ANIMAL HOUSE. THE BLUES BROTHERS. TRADING PLACES. ¡THREE AMIGOS!. THE MAN BEHIND THEM ALL? WRITER/DIRECTOR JOHN LANDIS. READ ON AS OUR VERY OWN WRITER/EDITOR WAYNE CHINSANG TALKS WITH JOHN ABOUT HIS CLASSICS OF THE PAST, HIS PRESENT DOCUMENTARY FILM TITLED SLASHER, AND WHAT HE WANTS TO BE REMEMBERED FOR IN THE FUTURE.

Wayne Chinsang: Your films have surpassed being just films and are now a part of American pop culture. Is it weird for you to think that something you did is now held in such high regard?

John Landis: The true test of almost everything is time. I am thrilled that Animal House and The Blues Brothers are still found entertaining. Once you make a movie, it has a life of its own. It goes out there and people make what they will of it.

WC: Of all the films you’ve done, which ones do you hear the most praise about from fans?

JL: Actually, people approach me all the time about different films. Sometimes it's ¡Three Amigos! Other times it’s Trading Places or Coming To America. But the one that seems most popular in the United States is probably Animal House. Different pictures mean different things to different people. In the last election, both Senator John Kerry and President Bush were asked what their favorite movie was, and both answered Animal House and The Blues Brothers!!! What the fuck does that mean?

WC: With The Blues Brothers and Animal House, what is one story during the filming of each that you will always remember more than any other?

JL: Too many stories! Watch the added material on both DVDs, because there's a lot there.

WC: You've done a wide range of work, most recently a documentary titled Slasher. Can you tell me a little bit about the film and how you decided to try your hand at a documentary?

JL: Slasher is a movie that turned out very different than the film I intended to make. My original intention was to show how the Bush Administration was lying to us about Iraq-- how they were selling us a war on false information and misdirection-- much like a car salesman sells a used car. However, once I found Michael Bennett [the subject of Slasher] and went to Memphis, real life became more fascinating to me than my original idea. I also made a documentary on B.B. King years ago that is included on the Into The Night DVD.

WC: Slasher starts off with a very obvious political opinion, but it worked really well with the film. Did you ever think to not include that intro?

JL: All films are political, whether they are intended to be or not. The montage of presidents lying to us was always the way Slasher started.

WC: What is the main difference between working from a script and working on a documentary? Is one harder than the other?

JL: Narrative filmmaking and documentary filmmaking are very different. On a regular movie, everyone on the set is there to realize the director's vision of the screenplay. In a documentary, you are there trying to capture uncontrolled events, the reality of what is unfolding. Often, the narrative of documentaries are found on the cutting room floor from the many hours of material.

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