Debbie Rochon ('Bog Creatures')
"To 'B' or Not To 'B'? It's Not Even A Question Anymore!"
’Bog Creatures’ (MTI Home Video) is director J. Christian Ingvordsen’s (’The Outfit,’ ‘Blue Vengeance’) first stab at the horror genre and to help ease him into the shoot he brought along “Queen of the B’s” horror actress Debbie Rochon (’Tromeo & Juliet,’ ‘Dead And Rotting').
Debbie Rochon got her start in the wild world of film by playing a groupie in the cult flick ’Ladies & Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains’ - which also kick-started the careers of both Laura Dern and Diane Lane! Since that 1981 debut, Rochon has appeared in well over 100 films ranging from the Nicholas Cage vehicle ’Vampire’s Kiss’ and the art house flick, ’Lonely In America,’ to straight-to-video efforts such as ’Hellblock 13,’ ‘Split,’ ‘Cremains,’ ‘Vampire Queen,’ and ’Play-Mate of the Apes.’
Her recent work includes a role in the 30th Anniversary version of ’Night Of The Living Dead’ where new footage was shot and edited on to the existing classic and new on MTI Video, ’Bog Creatures.’ This eerie feature is about a group of college students who are engaged in an archeological dig to unearth the remains of the legendary medieval Bog People. The problem is that these buried creatures have already unearthed themselves and are now pursuing the students for their own ritualistic purposes!
Catching up with Debbie at her home on a very cold New York City morning, I first wondered just how many films she had made and in what timeframe? ”Well, I’ve made over 100 movies that have been completed, but not released! Probably about 15 of them were never released, for various reasons and that has been since 1981 when I was 11 or 12. I had a small part in a movie called ’Ladies & Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains’ that was never released by paramount Pictures. I played a groupie for Diane Lane and Laura Dern and it played theatrically, but has never been released on Video or DVD. But, other than that I came to New York in 1985 and I guess my first real film work started in about 1988 and I’ve been working pretty much ever since.”
How long does it usually take to make these films? ”The funny thing about B-movies is that you are really making the full movie in ten days. You don’t have the budget to go twice as long or to go to the lengths of a regular schedule like say a Hollywood movie would have. It can be anywhere from as short as eight days and as many as 12 days.”
And what’s the downtime in-between? ”Well, it’s funny because in 2001 I – at some point – had one day in-between movies! I would literally come back to town long enough to do my laundry and change my underwear and then I’d be back to the airport again. But it just depends, ‘cause sometimes if you make two movies a month even, that’s a half to three-quarters of the month so you have about a week off. It’s like a regular job really. There’s not a lot of money in the B-movies and they’re non-union so you’re not making money on residuals and so you’re not making SAG wages.”
So, just what can an Actor expect to be paid for a role in a B-movie these days? ”Well it really depends on how established you are. Like, I made a movie called ‘American Nightmare’ and it did very well in the ‘cult world’ and had a reasonably high profile, again, in the ‘cult world,’ but for that movie I only made $1,200! Yeah, it’s obviously all about the work for me and getting to do what I do, but that’s a lower end scale as far as payment goes. But, a lot of times that’s all they’ll have and even if they’re shooting on film their budget may only be $50,000 or $80,000. Like a movie I just did called ‘Bog Creatures’ I made about the same as ‘American Nightmare’ and that was a ten day shoot on 35mm.”
Tell me more about ‘Bog Creatures’ ”’Bog Creatures’ is a fantastic movie and it’s very strange because I love violence and graphic gore and sex, but the ‘Bog Creatures’ is this really cool throw-back to the ‘70s Hammer movies. It’s PG-13 in the sense that there’s no swearing, or nudity, or gore, but there’s chills and thrills and story and comedy, but it’s also reasonably PG-13 in a good sense.”
Any behind-the-scenes secrets you can tell us from the set of the ‘Bog Creatures’? ”Well, it’s funny because one of the things that had to be dealt with, put it that way; which looking back at the movie I don’t think had any reflection on the quality or the style of the film, was this scene where one of the characters has a kissing scene. She’s trying to get a male to pretend that she’s a man and that he shouldn’t be homophobic. So, she’s kissing him and having him touch her body and stuff, and it’s a set up for a joke really, but in the script she was to take off her shirt and have a bra underneath. There was never any nudity that was written into the script and that was the last scene we were shooting on the day and it wasn’t until we got to that scene that she announced that she did not bring her bra! So, she couldn’t take of her shirt and I was thinking that I certainly understand forgetting something when you don’t have a wardrobe person that’s on set every single day, but I think everybody was disappointed. And not just because they didn’t get to have skin, but they felt like they were potentially tricked into not having what was wanted. So, that was just a little snafu that happened, and certainly nobody thinks anything bad of her, but at that moment it was very disappointing. Because, and here’s the rub, if you don’t shoot the nude or semi-nude underwear scene first, you’re in a lot of trouble, because by the end of the movie they could change their mind and you really have no recourse. You can’t use somebody else, you can’t replace them and that was the case as it was one of the last days of shooting. So they had to just go along with it as she was now in the position to be making the decisions for the film. And I personally think that’s wrong. I’ve done enough nudity in my career that I know you just don’t do that. If you don’t want to do the role you turn it down, and certainly in the case of a bra, well, that’s nothing for what I’ve had to do,” she laughs. ”I mean, consider yourself lucky that you get to keep the bra on,” she laughs again.
Was there ever a time you weren’t as comfortable doing nude and semi-nude scenes as you are now? ”I don’t think you ever become completely comfortable doing it, but me personally, I know the genre that I work in and it’s pretty much a prerequisite. Not just for the director or the screenwriter, but for, and most importantly, the distributor. When you sell these movies they’ll ask you how many people get killed and how much nudity is there. It’s the old joke where you need to get somebody killed and topless in the first ten minutes. But that’s really true!
How do you prepare for a scene that includes nudity? “Well, let’s say there’s a scene where you’re going crazy and you’re just killing somebody. Well, you have to prepare mentally to do that. You can’t just turn it off and on like a light switch. And it’s the same whether it’s a comedy or a love scene. You have to prepare, so it’s really no different when you’re doing nudity. I’ve never been a Playboy or Penthouse model so I’ve never ever been an exhibitionist … and I would never be one,’ she laughs. ”I don’t even walk around my own house naked!”
What do you say to the people that don't condone what you do on screen? ”I really try to live my life so that I don’t judge people, but this country is just so puritanical for a lot of my sensibilities. Personally, my favorite movies, a lot of the time, are European movies and nudity and such, where it’s just not an issue. And everything’s such an issue in this country and we’re all judging each other and pointing fingers.”
You’ve been quoted many times over as the ‘Scream Queen of the B’s’ ! How does that title sit with you? ”I probably laugh it off at this point, ‘cause the term is mostly an ‘80s term and while it was a nice handle at that time I think it’s sort of a derogatory term at this point. Not with all the people, but with some people. They say, ‘Oh, she’s a “Scream Queen”,’ but what does that mean? That means she works in low budget movies, she does nudity and she doesn’t work in the mainstream. It’s a combination of descriptive phrases that have become more of a negative stance. Whereas in the ‘80s, when a lot of the actresses like Jamie Lee Curtis and such were lumped into the “Scream Queen” thing, it was more of a fun-loving term for the fans and they used it in a very positive way. It’s just like the way you would use the term “Action Star,” but nowadays it just doesn’t really apply. A lot of the movies that I do nowadays I am actually the killer and not the victim. I think when the term came about for the most part was when the actresses were playing screaming victims. So, now with the way these movies have changed with, if you want to call it, through a lot more “girl power”, the roles are becoming stronger.”
What type of movies appeal to you to watch at home? ”A lot of the movies that I like have nudity in them,” she laughs.
How do you think B-movies of today differ from those of 10 or even 20 years ago? ”In the ‘80s you had a lot of fun, campy, over-the-top, insane B-movies and the way people approached the acting whether it was the actors or the directors, for the most part was bad. But we all loved them anyway, but I really feel that through the ‘90s things have changed. It’s kinda hard to put your finger on it, as every decade has it’s own vibe to it, but I really feel that we’ve come to the point even with B-movies that the acting and directing has improved so dramatically. It used to be that most people would write off B-movies and consider them cheesy and not visually impressive. But, if you look at something like the ‘Bog Creatures,’ the script is really good and you have all these young actors and they’re all really talented.”
What has stopped you from moving into mainstream Hollywood vehicles? ”I have done a little bit of work in the mainstream, like I had a guest-starring role on ‘New York: Undercover’ in the mid’90s and I was trying to work at doing more mainstream things, but then what happened was I stated getting a lot of work in the genre world. First of all it was something that I really wanted, because with my background I never really related to really normal kinda characters. Like the sweet girl, or whatever’s typical in the big movies, but I think having such a love for horror movies and then starting to get a lot of work in horror movies, I was just very satisfied and happy. It was just one of those things where you wake up one day and you’re like, ‘Oh, I’ve been doing this for 10 years!’” she laughs. ”Which is good and I have not one regret, except of course the finances being an issue because we all have to pay bills every month. Besides that I don’t have any regrets.”
Is there a role you’ve undertaken that is one of your finest moments? ”As far as a serious, no-comedy role, I would say the role I did for a movie called ‘Nowhere Man.’ It was directed by Tim McCann and that role, as far as dramatic roles go, that is by far my favorite experience and my most impressive performance that I’ve ever done. He’s editing it now and it comes out this year. But, I also look at ‘The Bog Creatures’ and it was just so much fun with its camp, comedy element! I really love doing that stuff too!”
You’ve worked with EI Cinema, MTI Video, Troma, etc. but which has proven to be your real home-away-from-home? ”I would have to say a couple of them. Troma is definitely one of my homes and although MTI is releasing the ‘Bog Creatures,’ it’s the first time that I’ve worked with them. But director’s like Chris Ingvordsen, well this is actually my third movie with him so he’s another one I consider like family.”
What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you whilst on set? ”It’s a strange story because it happened on set, but it wasn’t necessarily a set event. I was in Philly shooting a movie called ‘Split’ and I think we were on our 32nd hour which the director would always consider to still be one day: ‘Hey, if we haven’t gone to sleep yet we’re still on the same day!’ And I was just delirious and I had to walk into this room and shoot it up and kill everybody in it. It was right around eight o’clock in the morning I had also just found out that my mother had died! So, I finished the scene anyway, but between being so tired and everything else it was just very surreal. That was probably the hardest. Another story would be I was shooting a movie in New Jersey and it was earlier on in my career and it was a role where I’m accosted by these thugs and then this monster comes out and saves me! But one of the three thugs who was accosting me – in fact it was the guy who had to rip my shirt open – was played by one of the producers who was not an actor and only wanted to do that role so that he could do that! I found that out afterwards and that was very disturbing for me. Probably the worst stuff that happens in the business isn’t necessarily on the set. It’s always the people that you know and try to help out and the friends that you make. It’s really all the back-stabbing and the people that cross you in the business. And it’s so ridiculous because it’s on such a small level. This business draws the most desperate and fear-based people and that’s when you actually find people like Chris Ingvordsen, Tim McCann and people like that and you really hang onto them and cherish them.”
Sum up your feelings at the time you made these films:
‘Play-Mate of The Apes’ (Dr. Cornholeous) – (laughs first) ”Hey, hey, we’re the humans,” she laughs. ”I loved playing an ape. I loved it. That was a highlight for me.”
‘Charlie & Sadie’ (Sadie) - ”That’s not finished yet, but it’s a very fun road movie.”
‘Skin Crawl’ (Margret) - ”Oh, swallowing live worms and maggots. Yeah, they were real and they were in my mouth! It was a challenge!”
‘Vampire Queen’ ('Vampire Queen') – (laughs first) ”It was a very short shoot, but a lot of fun.”
‘Bog Creatures’ (Tara) - ”Oh, working in the trenches and loving it.”
Dr. Horror’s Erotic House of Idiots (Valerie Kenton) – “Ah, the musical number. That was so much fun, but there’s a story behind that. We started the shoot the day before 9/11 and we were shooting throughout this tragedy because we didn’t have the luxury to stop. You know, we’re shooting this movie that has very 1950’s humor, really quick patter, a very tight comedy where timing is everything and it was so surreal trying to shoot that on 9/11 as the buildings are coming down and we’re doing musical numbers!”
Tell me more about the book you’ve just written ”I’ve written a book called ‘The B-movie Survival Guide’ and it’s mostly a comedy with little anecdotes on how to survive until the end credits. It has little illustrations and anecdotes from filmmakers like Lloyd Kaufman, a forward by Joe Bob Briggs, so it’s a fun little book, but I’m gonna be writing a very serious book soon. It’s gonna be about my life starting, of course, about being a child of the streets and then moving to New York and the insanity in this business. Basically just being brutally honest about everything, but not that I’m not normally, but just really going through the whole experience in long-hand so to speak.”
You mentioned “being a child of the streets,” but what did that truly entail? ”Well, when I was eleven I was taken from my parents and put into the Foster Care System, so when I was twelve and thirteen I kept running away because they were very abusive. The people I was involved with were doing it strictly for the money, because they get subsidized by the government up in Canada. So, I would constantly run away and sleep on the streets and eat out the back of restaurants and do all that stuff for a couple of years on and off. But, I kept getting beaten up and put into Halfway Houses and because it was so bad I just kept running away! I mean, there was one time I was in a Halfway House and one of the girls upstairs committed suicide and all of the councilors ran upstairs and while they were upstairs I took off out the front door. It was that sort of rough beginning, but once I had that experience on ‘Ladies & Gentlemen: The Fabulous Stains’ I think it gave me direction.”
But how did you go from Halfway House runaway to “movie star” in such a short period of time?! ”Well, there’s someone that I knew, a gay gentleman and he was also a runaway and he knew this other gay guy who had some friends in the city at that time. And they were told about this movie that was coming to town and that they needed extras. So, if you went down to this one place you could have a Polaroid taken and if you were willing to bleach your hair blonde they would pay you cash every week – and they paid about $200 cash every single week! I must have worked on that movie for three months, so it was a goldmine! So, I just showed up down there with literally the clothes on my back and that was it.”
What’s your favorite horror flick of all time? ”Yeah, ‘The Shining.’ I love it visually, the acting, the directing. It’s beautiful to watch. I could watch it over and over again.”
What’s life been like working with the great Lloyd Kaufman for the past 10 years and what kind of man is he? ”He is a closet gay man,” she laughs long and loud, ”and besides that he’s a great director. And he would love the fact that I called him that too,
don’t get me wrong. He is the type of guy that while he’s crazy, and while many people that have worked with him have bad things to say, he has a heart of gold. He is so funny, he is so smart, he makes his own movies in his own style and nobody else has it.
And how often do you see that? You see so many directors that are cookie cutters and you would never know who directed any movie that you were watching. Like it has no fingerprints on it and Lloyd is just insane, he’s crazy, he’s outrageous, you may hate him, you may love him, but you will know his work. And that to me is the biggest compliment you can give anybody.
He’s been there for me when others have not and once you’re involved in Troma, he looks at his work as an ensemble and as a family. It could be a very dysfunctional family, mind you,” she laughs again, ”but it’s a family nonetheless. He is truly, sincerely the funniest guy that I’ve ever met and he is really an insane genius and that’s how I look at him.”
Are there any secrets left about you to even reveal these days?! (Long period of quietly-mumbled thinking) ”Erm, well, I used to date Paul Cook from the Sex Pistol like a long time ago! It was sort of something that I didn’t really speak about when I was sixteen or whatever. I’d met them on ‘Ladies And Gentlemen: The Fabulous Stains’ initially and then a while after that I eventually went over to England and spent some time with him … and that was a very interesting experience just being around him. He was actually a very, very nice, sweet guy who called his mother every single day. That’s the truth about him, but Steve Jones, on the other hand, was even at this point still just living the image. I don’t think he could go anywhere without trashing the place and I really got the sense he was still doing what people expect of you as opposed to being a seventeen year-old angry boy, because he was long passed that.”
Well, that certainly qualifies as a secret not-told-before ! ”It’s funny, because in the movie the band that they were in was called ‘The Professionals’ and right after the movie they came out with that group. They actually toured with it and I think they just left it for that particular tour around ’82 or ’83. The Sex Pistols had broken up, I think, in ’79, but I don’t think ‘The Professionals’ – which was just Steve and Paul and two other guys that I don’t know – did very well. It’s just funny because nobody’s seen the movie, but they kept the name of the band right from that movie.”
Being British, please tell me more about the ‘band’ that was created for you called ‘The Slice Girls’! ”Well, ‘The Slice Girls’ was a parody band that I was in and my character’s name was Isis and basically, what we did was we put horror movie lyrics to Spice Girls tunes. They had hits like ‘Wannabe’ and so our song was called ‘Wanna Haunt Me’ and stuff like that ! So, we had six or seven cuts on a CD and we never played anywhere, but we sold the CDs for Halloween and stuff.”
What are the new movies we can expect from you in 2003? ”Well, there’s three or four of them coming up and it’s funny because the one in March doesn’t even have a title! But, there’s one called ‘Drug Me, Shoot Me’ which is not the very next movie coming out, but it’s one of the next ones which is a very awesome story. It’s directed by the same fellow who did ‘Split’ and is about a guy who has no memory of what’s happening and it’s because he’s being fed these pills. And this woman who claims to be his wife, which is me, may actually not be his wife! He’s sort of floating between these two realities and it’s sort of like a futuristic, sci-fi, gangster movie in a way.”
Do you have a guilty pleasure of a movie to watch? ”Erm, ‘Killer Klowns From Outer Space’,” she laughs. ”Come on, all these clowns getting out of the car.”
Interviewed By Russell A. Trunk
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