Exclusive: “BIG ASS SPIDER!” director talks his new Syfy movie “LAVALANTULA”Movies/TV,News Michael Gingold
Having delivered an above-average giant-bug movie with BIG ASS SPIDER!, director Mike Mendez unleashes more eight-legged freaks this weekend in the Syfy original LAVALANTULA. We got some exclusive comments from him about this latest arac attack.
It’s a big weekend for Mendez, as TALES OF HALLOWEEN, the anthology feature on which he served as a producer and director, has its world premiere tonight at Montreal’s Fantasia festival, and LAVALANTULA has its Syfy premiere Saturday, July 25 at 9/8 Central. The movie, written by Neil Elman and Ashley O’Neil, sees Los Angeles attacked by huge, lava-spewing spiders, with Steve Guttenberg toplining as former action star Colton West, the only man who can save the day. Guttenberg’s POLICE ACADEMY co-stars Michael Winslow, Leslie Easterbrook and Marion Ramsey also appear in the film, along with Nia Peeples, Patrick Renna, Noah Hunt and Danny Woodburn.
“The last thing I wanted to do after BIG ASS was another spider movie,” Mendez tells Fango, “but Syfy and Cinetel Films called me up and asked if I’d be interested. My knee-jerk reaction was that I wasn’t, but at the same time, I’d never had a network call and ask specifically for me. I have wanted to break into television for a while now, so I felt this was a good test to see what it was like to work for a network.”
The experience, he recalls, was quite different for that of BIG ASS SPIDER!, despite the similar subject matter. “The big difference was that BIG ASS SPIDER! was an independent feature and this was a TV movie, so at the end of the day, it wasn’t my film. It was Syfy’s film, but knowing that going in, it was fun to collaborate with them and try my best to give them what they wanted, which was part BIG ASS SPIDER! and part SHARKNADO. The difference between my films and Syfy’s is that I want the audience to laugh with us, while the Syfy way is to take a ridiculous concept and play it straight. The end result is a little bit of both.”
Of course, how could there not be a certain amount of laughs with so many POLICE ACADEMY vets in the cast? Mendez reveals how the reunion came together: “We offered the movie to Steve Guttenberg, who wanted to do it, but he had one request: Could Michael Winslow have a cameo? The answer was a resounding yes from me, and then we just started getting carried away. We thought, ‘If we really tried, how many POLICE ACADEMY cast members could we get?’ and the answer was four. We filled it with a lot of other fun folks to round out the cast.”
You don’t get an ensemble like that in your typical Syfy original, and the director believes he was able to strike a balance between his and the network’s desires. “It was really a learning experience,” Mendez says. “At the end of the day, this was not the time or place to test the auteur theory. They were the client, and I needed to work with them to give them a product that their audience will get into. I believe we accomplished that. I don’t think the world is quite ready for the weird shit that is going to explode out of their televisions on Saturday night, and I’m very curious to hear the reaction.”