In the next of our Bad Taste themed interviews, we sit down with Craig Smith. Craig played a charity collector that got captured i...
Bad Taste is one of those cult classics that most have heard of but fewer have actually seen. It has won many awards over the years and was the directorial debut of Lord of the Rings' director Peter Jackson.
In our series of Bad Taste interviews, we have turned to actor Craig Smith who played the charity collector that was captured by the Aliens!
DVDActive: I was quite surprised when I heard that Bad Taste was originally going to be a "short", what got you started making the "short" that ended up becoming Bad Taste?
Craig Smith: I hung out a lot with Peter Jackson and Ken Hammon. Pete had purchased a second hand 16mm Bolex camera and around late ’82 – early ’83 a plan was hatched to make a 10-minute short for the Wellington Film Festival. We settled on “Roast of the Day” as the working title – the project took on a life of its own and eventually became Bad Taste – we had optimistically planned a 6 months shoot...
DVDActive: Did you ever think whilst making the film that it would end up being such a cult classic?
Craig Smith: Looking back now, I don’t think we really thought about it in those terms. When we started shooting the movie our only ambition was to have it screened at the Wellington Film Festival. As time went on and the short film grew into a full-length feature our ambition was to get it finished and released. On its initial release the film was marketed as a “kiwi kult klassic” (to use the New Zealand distributors description) and it didn’t do very well at all. For example, it opened at the Prince Charles theatre in Leicester Square and only lasted a week (even though we received some unexpected free publicity when the poster advertising the movie was banned by London Underground). It’s only really been on video (and now DVD) that it’s found its audience and attained cult status. I wonder now how it would have done if it’d been given a chance on general release.
DVDActive: Do you still keep in touch with the rest of "the boys" from AIDS?
Craig Smith: I still see Pete O’Herne and Ken Hammon quite regularly and chat with Mike Minett by e-mail. A couple of months ago we all attended a Bad Taste cast reunion and screening at a convention in Wellington which was a lot of fun.
DVDActive: What was your favourite scene in Bad Taste?
Craig Smith: It’s a toss up between blowing up the Capri because we had a lot of fun blowing it up, or the exploding sheep – as it’s the best sight gag in the movie. It was originally planned as a far more elaborate scene involving Pete O’Herne and myself being chased by a rabid sheep – we spent a fruitless afternoon running around a paddock trying to make that sheep look menacing. We discovered to our cost that it’s virtually impossible to make a pet lamb act in a rabid manner so the scene was dropped in favour of the exploding sheep gag – which works much better.
DVDActive: Were there any scenes that you wished had made it into the film, please describe them if so?
Craig Smith: I don’t think there’s anything we could add that would make BT a better film. Many story ideas were filmed and discarded because they just didn’t fit with the tone and pacing of the final feature.
DVDActive: How come Bad Taste took so long to create? Wasn't it four years?
Craig Smith: The story of the making of Bad Taste is an epic in itself. The film was shot on Sunday afternoons - weather permitting and if Pete had enough cash to buy film stock - over 4 years. During that time we had 2 marriages, 2 nervous breakdowns, a divorce, 1 case of testicular cancer, a drug overdose, and 1 death. All of the main players save Pete O’Herne and Peter Jackson left the project for one reason or another (we all shot death scenes!) then returned. The story had to evolve to take into account what was happening in our lives in the real world. We should have written a book about it.
DVDActive: While filming Bad Taste over those four years, what did you do in real-life?
Craig Smith: I was a civil servant working at the Department of Internal Affairs in Wellington. I can remember many Monday mornings chatting with my workmates about I’d been up to over the weekend – severed heads, projectile vomiting, stewing in a pot of marinade etc...
DVDActive: When was the last time you saw Bad Taste and what did you think of it?
Craig Smith: I saw it on the big screen about a month ago. I’m still very proud of it but cringed at the quality of the picture and sound. I’ve just watched the special edition DVD - the guys at Anchor Bay have done a fantastic job of re-mastering the movie.
DVDActive: What have you been up to since Bad Taste was completed?
Craig Smith: I had a major motorcycle accident in early ’88 that had me laid up for 4 months. After I got back on my feet I decided to do a bit of travelling so went to England for a working holiday and ended up living there for 7 years. While I was over there I did guest spots at a number film festivals and genre events, and was involved with some projects that unfortunately didn’t see the light of day. I returned to New Zealand at the end of 1996 and am now semi-retired.
DVDActive: Has the recent interest in Lord of the Rings resulted in you being asked about Bad Taste a lot more?
Craig Smith: Not as much as I would have thought actually. The fans I’ve spoken to and corresponded with tend to be fans of Bad Taste rather than of Peter Jackson’s body of work as a whole. Its still surprises me how much affection our fans have for the movie – its very flattering.
DVDActive: Did the movie start out with an entire script or was it made up as you went along?
Craig Smith: The first time I saw a script was when we were about to loop the dialogue months after shooting had been completed! It was only toward the end that we had enough cash to hire a sound rig – most of the film was shot silent on a hand wound 16mm camera so dialogue wasn’t really an issue.
DVDActive: What was it like to be in that big cauldron? Was it cold? Did you have to sit in there for long?
CRaig Smith: It was actually one of the more pleasant scenes to film. We set it up in PJ’s garage and shot it over 2 sunny Sunday afternoons – I was topped off with warm water between takes and when I got hungry I was able to snack on some of the fruit that was part of the marinade. I guess I was sitting in the pot for 4 hours at a time. That compares with my worst experience which would probably have to be the scene where I’m lying on the ground between Mike and Terry as they’re firing their handguns at the approaching alien horde – it was a wet cold day (sub zero temperatures) and I got a mild case of hypothermia.
DVDActive: Will you be buying the new THX approved remastered DVD of Bad Taste and if so, why?
Craig Smith: I already have my copy of the special edition DVD. I’m really excited about what Anchor Bay have done for the fans – not only have they invested a lot of time and effort getting Bad Taste looking and sounding great, the whole package is of a very high standard - I especially like the three part slip cover.
DVDActive: Anchor Bay didn't do a commentary track for the limited edition release of the DVD, out of interest; did they approach you about such a feature? Would you have done one if they did?
Craig Smith: They had talked about getting us together to record a commentary, and we were all keen to do it, but in the end they ran out of production time – and PJ didn’t have time because of his commitment to LOTR.
DVDActive: Finally, would you ever consider doing a follow-up movie, where Derek arrives back on the alien world to wreak havoc?
DVDActive: For a long time after BT was released we kicked around ideas for a sequel, or perhaps using the same characters in a different context, but then Pete moved on to bigger and better things and we all drifted apart. The fans still seem keen but we’re not getting any younger so a large part of the budget would have to go on hair dye and corsets for the boys. I’m sure we’d all still be up for it though so you never know - it could still happen!
Thank you Craig for finding the time to take part in this DVDActive interview! Anchor Bay have just released the special limited edition copy of Bad Taste featuring a remastered transfer and documentary. You can obtain a copy from most good region one online retailers.
DVDActive would also like to thank Hamish Towgood who runs The Ultimate Bad Taste Fan Site for helping us to get into contact with Pete O'Herne! If you are interested in the movie Bad Taste, then Hamish's site offers some excellent exclusive information, click here.
Editorial by Malcolm Campbell
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