While Roger Corman may not be a household name, many of those who have worked with the prolific filmmaker are.
From director James Cameron to actor Jack Nicholson, Corman has helped shape the careers of many cinematic talents throughout his nearly 60-year-long career producing, directing and acting in films.
The documentary Cormans World is a cinematic testament to his work, featuring interviews with his friends and peers intercut with scenes of his daily routine making films. In an interview with The Oracle, the films producer Stone Douglass said paying homage to Corman was a rare but fulfilling accomplishment.
I have to say, its an honor to be a part of making a film about someone I respect and revere as much as Roger Corman, he said.
Douglass, whos produced television documentaries such as PBS American Masters and films such as the upcoming Jason Bateman and Olivia Wilde comedy The Longest Week, said he wasnt aware of the reach of Cormans influence when he began his own career in filmmaking.
A lot of the traits and lessons to be learned from Roger did influence me along the way I just didnt know they were coming from Roger, he said.
While Cormans work is often associated with schlocky midnight movies teenagers would see at drive-ins, like The Little Shop of Horrors, he later began developing a relationship with impressive talent both in front and behind the camera on features ranging from House of Usher, to The Trip. Douglass, along with the films other producers and director Alex Stapleton, was responsible for assembling this wide array of talent for interviews.
Even with a list of interviewees including Oscar-winning directors Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino, and actors such as Nicholson and Robert De Niro, there were two omissions from the lineup that Douglass wishes he couldve had.
The two people that are glaringly missing from the film are (Francis Ford) Coppola and Cameron, and while I wouldve loved to have them in the film, I think it still succeeds without them in it, he said. There were also a lot of people who werent even Cormanites, but who were heavily influenced by him. Like we got Quentin Tarantino in a press line, but he wanted to do a formal interview for over a year, but based on his schedule, it was challenging to find time to get him in.
Douglass said while they initially planned to only include those close to Corman, such as Nicholson and A Beautiful Mind filmmaker Ron Howard, the scope of the documentary eventually grew wider.
There was the thought early on to get all the people who work for Roger, also known as the Cormanites, or those who graduated from the school of Roger Corman filmmaking, he said. But then, also todays generation like James Wan, or the Saw guys, who were clearly influenced by Roger, but also lets look at some international icons and see what they have to say about Roger.
Yet even with the films numerous subjects, Nicholsons emotional interview has drawn the most attention from press and audiences. From an actor who credits Corman with giving him a break when nobody else would, its a particularly heartfelt moment that sticks out for Douglass.
He doesnt do interviews unless its like a movie hes getting paid big bucks for, so thats a testament to his love for Roger, he said. As a producer and a filmmaker, that moment for me getting the call after the three-and-a-half-hour interview from the director, when I thought she was going to call and say, Its canceled, but it happened. I can tell you where I was and what I was wearing because it was such an important moment for us.
Even though the project was an arduous four-year process, he said it all seemed worth it when he saw Nicholsons scene play at a Cannes Film Festival screening.
Sitting in black tie at Cannes in the Bunuel Theatre with my wife sitting next to me with our unborn child in her belly, she took my hand and put it over on her stomach right at this great moment when Jack cries and the audience freaks out, he said. My now 7-month-old daughter kicked, and I felt it, and Ill never forget that.
Yet with the upsides of Cormans World also came the loss of several of the films subjects, such as Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner, Kill Bill actor David Carradine, and even Say Anything and Cormans World producer Polly Platt. Douglass spoke on their passing, as well as the films contention that Cormans admirers are, in fact, a dying breed.
I definitely hope (Cormans World) serves as a definitive piece on Roger, but you know, hes still making movies, so theres plenty more story to be told, he said. In terms of how their deaths are relevant to how the film will live on in history, I dont know if theres a positive correlation, but you know, maybe there is and its just yet to be discovered.
Douglass has a music-based time travel comedy in the works, along with The Longest Week, but said he feels Cormans World will be his last documentary for a while.
I feel really blessed with the turnout of this film, and Ill be lucky if I have a film thats as successful and critically well-received as this one has been anytime soon, he said. I dont know who else is up there in the pantheon that hasnt already had a film about them.
Cormans World is available from Anchor Bay Entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday.