Craig Edwards - SMB Archive Interview: 02/03/2011 by Steven Applebaum
I first noticed Craig from a comment of his on Jeff Pillars' ("Wart" from the film) Facebook page. It seems that they had worked together on the film and (Craig, at least) had good memories of the experience. He seemed so genuine that I thought he might be interested in reminiscing a little more with us. And, boy, did he ever!
This interview was conducted over several weeks via Facebook. I would ask a question and then Craig would answer, offering just as much detail as cast. He took real control of this interview by sharing on everything he could possibly remember. It's this very passion that pushed him into the roles of a production assistant and a featured "dino-human" extra. Even now, his passion for the movie can be plainly seen in the detail of this interview. Enjoy it. We certainly did.
Steven Applebaum: To begin, could you tell us a little about yourself and what led you to the film's production back in '93?
Craig Edwards: Okay--I'm going to let the words flow as they will--
I moved to Wilmington, NC in January 1992 to seek work in the film industry. I had a friend who'd vacationed here and knew they made movies and television shows here. From January to April I tried to break in by dropping by some location shoots for a couple of TV movies and visiting every kind of studio I could find. Not much happened as a result.
However, at one sound studio I met a nice guy named Chuck who seemed to feel for my situation. In April, as my savings were growing dangerously sparse, I dropped back by Chuck's sound studio, letting him know I was getting desperate for work. He told me a friend was casting extras for a movie called Amos and Andrew that afternoon at the studio, and he offered to put in a good word for me with his friend.
Sure enough, I got hired to play a television crew guy in some scenes in Amos and Andrew which were shot off and on starting in April and continuing into June. Having showed that I was a good, punctual worker, the extras casting lady told me a new movie was shooting that was going to need a lot of extras - Super Mario Bros. So I got listed for that movie as an extra too, somewhere around mid May 1992.
SMB was bringing in 300 people a day as Dinohattan citizens. I alternated working on both movies off and on for the rest of Amos & Andrew's production period. When it wrapped, I just kept working on Mario. I met one of the assistant directors, a young woman named Stefania Girolami Goodwin, who took a liking to me and my enthusiasm for the work and film knowledge (her father is an Italian director whose work I was familiar with) She introduced me to her husband Jeff Goodwin, who was the key makeup artist on the movie. He also took a liking to me, so now I had two solidly placed contacts on the movie.
Thanks to them, I got treated more like a featured extra - I got a special spangly vest to wear, and Jeff put a patch of scales on my forehead with makeup effects.
"I got a special spangly vest to wear"
CE: However, the other assistant directors were all guys, and they were more interested in featuring the hot young women close to camera to score points, so I never got featured. But I am just barely able to be seen in a couple of points in the movie. (Both featuring the actress named Francesca who played Big Bertha, coincidentally.) But that's how I got started.
SA: Yes, we know Jeff. He was our second interview. Very great guy. Could you tell us a little more about your interaction with the makeup department and the process of becoming a "dino-human"?
CE: Well, I've been a fan of special effects makeup forever, and found a real kindred spirit in both Jeff and Vinnie Guastini, who was doing some of the prosthetic work on SMB. When Jeff found out how much I was interested in the process, he chose me to wear one of his latex pieces for the movie. I got to sit in the same chair that Bob Hoskins sat in for makeup!
Jeff cleaned my forehead of oils and dirt with some alcohol on a cotton ball, then allowed it to dry. He then applied adhesive to my forehead and applied the piece which was positioned high over my right eye almost on my temple. Once it was in place, he did the delicate work blending the edges of the piece into invisibility, then spent several minutes painting the scales green and making the "skin" around the burst area angry red.
One of Craig's makeup application pieces, still intact!
When he was finished, Stefania took me to the head of the line for hair in the extras tent and personally worked me over as can be seen in the picture I uploaded this evening. She gelled my hair and worked it into a "slick guy" kind of look.
Once that was done, she then took me to wardrobe so they'd give me something special, and I ended up in a black shirt, purple patterned tie, and a shiny silver and purple vest. With this in place, I felt like I was going to be fourth billed in the movie after Hoskins, Leguizamo, and Hopper. As we have seen, that was not the case.
SA: Unfortunately, it seems like most of the dino-humans the makeup department created were cut for whatever reason. We've heard the makeup department wasn't even supposed to create those kind of effects but did so anyways, only for the characters to be cut for being too "creepy" for the gaggy kid's movie they were going for.
That ensemble you wore is great. It's both loud and scaly; just what I'd expect a Dinohattanite to wear. Who's the girl beside you? It looks like she has the same "burst" scale effect over her breast, so was she another dino-human?
CE: Actually, that was a real tattoo she had there. And sadly, I do not remember her name, although we were around each other a lot in those months.
I wore that outfit and had the head piece on for a few days, and then Stefania started using me as an extra "extra wrangler" on set (in effect, being a low level production assistant (PA) for her). Even while I was still working as an extra, she started to have me set far background in some of the wide shots of Dinohattan.
The funny thing is, it was my fourth experience on or near a set (Superboy and A League of Their Own preceded Amos & Andrew and SMB) and because the setups were long, I would have time to really set up some intricate stuff in my section of the shot - I did a full on slapstick comedy sequence with chains of events (guy 1 steals wallet from guy 2, who then can't pay for his rat on a stick but he's hungry so he takes it and the vendor starts chasing him - that sort of thing) and then when I saw the movie - the shot all that work was supporting was the rat creature looking up at Big Bertha as she lands in the boots - everything that isn't the rat or the boots is completely out of focus. *sigh* And that happened a lot. On subsequent movies I learned my lesson, found out what the shot was and provided background appropriate to what was needed.
SA: There was a lot of action going on in the background that fans just love picking out. Every viewing seems to turn up something missed before. Unfortunately, most of it is out of focus. That's one reason why we've been really pushing for an extended and remastered re-release of the movie to see what we're missing.
As an "extra wrangler" and an extra yourself you must have had a lot of interaction with everyone on set. What was the overall atmosphere of the production? Other than the leads we've heard it was usually a fun time.
CE: It was a hard shoot - there's no getting around that. It was the depths of summer here in Wilmington, so it was HOT. And I'm talking about the exteriors downtown and the desert. Then there was the Dinohattan set - WOW HOT - it was metered at 120 degrees up on the third level at one point, and it was a cool and refreshing 95 or so down in the bottom area where the cars ran. So there was always discomfort. It was also not the safest set - Dinohattan was a rough place - and that extended to the set - sharp metal jutting out, flooring that could be less than structurally sound and was taped off except when cameras rolled - the sparks that were falling down in shots - if that stuff hit you - OUCH!
All that said though - it was a good time. My friendship with Jeff and Stefania Goodwin was not the only one I developed. I have friends still that I met on that set. All of the setups were pretty long, and often the extras will be brought in (especially if there are a lot of them) so that they're already in place when the shot is ready, so we stood around a lot and joked and cut up.
As far as that background goes - well, not to sound too full of myself - but the odds are better than half that the background that is catching the eyes of the fans might well have been set by me, as I was there every day for Dinohattan and started working with Stefania early. Even after I stopped strictly working as an extra and moved over to production assistant, it was agreed that my work outfit every day would be a black t-shirt and dark jeans, so I could be in shots if necessary to direct action without standing out.
The biggest example of this was when Bertha jumps across to the bar - when she comes down on the walkway in the middle, I'm right on camera on the sidelines of her landing point, directing the extras to clear out for her landing. That was pretty wild. Per Stefania's directive, I was out there on the walkway with 20 or so people, and had them milling about and moving ala Dinohattan. And then, several times across the course of a shot I would bellow "CLEAR!" and all my people would spread away from a central spot, which was for Bertha to land.
And for these shots, Francesca was not there - she was going to be added in later. She did have to go up on a wire rig briefly - but she was also doubled - by a man - and weirdest of all, that young man was the nephew of Fred "Rerun" Berry from TV's What's Happening. The nephew's name was Jeff Johnson, and I can't figure out which of the 50+ Jeff Johnsons on the IMDB he is. But you get a good look at Jeff in the police station sequence - they cut to him briefly in the cages at least once. I was in there too, but only in wide shots - about three cages over and one up from Jeff.
Jeff Johnson, nephew of Fred "Rerun" Berry of TV's What's Happening. He was an extra, a production assistant, and even at one point Francesca Roberts' (Big Bertha) double!
CE: I actually met Rocky Morton in my cage - he climbed up to look at something and got into my cage for a moment. We had a brief chat, but he was really looking for something and moments later climbed back down.
Anyhoo, back at Dinohattan - so I'm there for Bertha's jump, and I did similar "in-shot" extra directing in other places as well. Just as an aside - I'll throw in here all of the sequences I worked on - to see if you have specific questions about any of them - police station (extra in cages), all exterior Dinohattan (extra and wrangler) the bar (extra and wrangler) the police car chase; the jump into the garbage truck; exterior New York around the van; exterior Mario bros apartment; helped with the Goombas; the slide down the ice tunnel; and Bob-omb.
I also have stories of my encounters with actors Don Lake, Jeff Pillars, Kevin West, all of the Goombas, all of the Brooklyn girls, Edson and Stevens, Stevens' then girlfriend Michelle Pfeiffer, Hopper, Shaw, Leguizamo, Mathis, Mathis's mom Bibi Besch (from Star Trek 2), and best of all, Mr. Hoskins, who didn't like seeing me upset...
Stories of wandering around the concrete factory where the sets were built and all of the wonders on display - the small props I was able to bring home - the rumors and stories of the sequel and the other movies that were going to branch off from SMB, the photo doubles, the crew members visible on camera, the crew members' relatives who are visible on camera. And anything else you might like to discuss or ask about.
SA: I was actually about to ask about the scenes you were involved with, so thanks for the run-down. A few do stand out that I'd like to ask about, but feel free to comment on all of them.
First of all, what was it like to work in the Boom Boom Bar? It must have been a heated atmosphere that was difficult to choreograph just right. We also know that there was an extended sequence there where Spike and Iggy rap about Koopa's overthrow while Mario and Luigi duck and weave through the dancing clubbers. Do you remember anything about that sequence?
CE: The Boom Boom bar was really located inside as an interior set to the Dinohattan exterior set - which was an interior set (!) Yes, they built them big on Super Mario Bros! We shot in there for a couple of weeks or so. It was hot (as all of the interior of the cement factory was).
This was another place where the assistant directors excelled at placing the attractive young women closer to camera. I am barely seen sitting at a table along the wall, and then in one cut as the camera shows the walkway outside I come by and watch a person who jumps/falls off the walkway. If you remember that person, I'm the guy who comes up back to camera and looks down. (We extras added a bit where I'm pickpocketed and chase off after the thief, but not sure any of that is seen as the shot cuts pretty quick).
Back inside the bar, I also am on the edge of the huge crowd shots during the dancing - that was my first such scene - and I was flabbergasted as they had no idea what song would be played in the movie, and had a representative song they only played long enough to give us the beat, then cut the music so they could record live sound as the boys make their way through the bar.
I do not remember the Spike/Iggy rap - wonder if that was shot later by a unit I wasn't working on? And yes, it was really hard for everyone to maintain one beat, and do it silently, so there were a lot of cuts in those wide shots. It was just like everything else in the movie - intricate, long, and hot. But as with the rest of the filming - we still had some fun.
SA: You can read about the Spike & Iggy rap scene--as well as other cut footage--on our site HERE...
CE: What a wonderful site! I think scanning through it I can bring you some more information too. On the Mark Miller/Michael Harding interview page - the last picture of Mark in costume with the other two people - the guy in the middle with the heavy lizard prosthetics is Mike Criscuolo, who was Luigi's stand in and photo double for most of the movie (not stunt double). Mike started out as an extra and moved up across the run of the show. That's the kind of thing I can try to look to throw out to you as I scan the site.
Michael Criscuolo (center), John Leguizamo’s photo-double as well as a dino-human
SA: We heard from Naomi Cleaver that Mario and Luigi's stuntmen narrowly missed the garbage truck in one take and spent months in the hospital. Did you witness that?
CE: The jump into the dump truck - yes, I was present for that - I don't remember if I was supposed to be an extra, but I think I was still - not a production assistant yet. That was the first movie stunt I ever saw filmed, and it was just like all of them - hours and hours and hours of meticulous planning and rehearsing and planning and rehearsing, followed by a quick burst of filming and its over. In this case, however, it did go wrong - and because of that I gritted my teeth for every other stunt sequence I ever watched.
The guys did the jump, and they just sprang out of the back of the truck and splatted on the cement behind it. The story we heard was that the garbage bags in the truck were filled with foam and Styrofoam, and the plan was that they should ALL have large holes in them, or they should have been bagged with as little air as possible in them - but instead they were tied off, unpunctured, and full of air.
So when the guys came down into them, the bags were like a springboard of action/reaction and threw them out. Now, I don't remember their names - and I don't want to discount anything anyone else said, but I wasn't aware of long hospital stays for the guys - the Luigi double definitely broke an arm - and I know they were taken away in ambulances for checkovers - but keep in mind that a lot of their kinetic energy had been spent into the those bags - and even though they were thrown out roughly, it was only like being thrown out 8 feet or something - yes, onto concrete - but they weren't mangled.
SA: We know that the Bob-Omb sequence was all shot in secondary units to sort of glue the whole climax together. For some it doesn't work, but for many others it's both cute and fun. It's like the dino-world's version of the Energizer Bunny. What was it like shooting so much around a little toy?
CE: I'm going to hold off on Bob-omb for now - and pick this up in a more chronological order. So I'll post this one off to you - and pick up tomorrow with the police station, chains, cages, Rocky Morton, Don Lake, and fireballs.
SA: It must have been amazing interacting with so many talented and diverse actors. Can you tell a few stories about your encounters with all of them?
CE: My very first day on SMB I was an extra, and as I had yet to meet Stefania or Jeff Goodwin, I was just one of around a hundred or so extras for the day. (We peaked out using something over 300 on the biggest days). The sequence to be shot was the police station. I had worn dark clothing as requested, and I was scruffed up a bit by extras hair and makeup. I was chosen to be part of a chain gang, but not I think attached to the Mario Bros.
I remember being taken to set, and first goggling at the sets, then meeting a prop guy, who gave us some plastic chain painted silver. Several of us extras "chained" ourselves together, and in the scene we're struggling with a couple of cop extras, being dragged into the station or around the station.
While shooting this sequence, at one point during some downtime I got the chains off and wandered off away from where they were shooting to ogle the sets some more. I ran into an actor I recognized, but could not name. I had seen him in a horror movie called Blue Monkey a few months previously. I mentioned the title of the movie as an introduction, and Don Lake smiled at being recognized. We chatted for a couple of minutes and he was very pleasant and nice. I went back to shooting a few minutes later and didn't see much more of him then.
However, we did run into each other weeks later when I changed jobs to being the stand-in for Jeff Pillars (Wart) during the Devo Chamber sequence. Don was still very cool, and seemed to be having a good time. (More on the Devo Chamber, my burgeoning friendship with Jeff Pillars, and meeting Kevin West another time).
Back at the police station, we shot in there for a couple of weeks. Eventually I moved into one of the cages (actually a few cages over several days) and spent a LOT of time wishing I'd slipped a paperback book into my pocket. However, during my cage time I was positioned one up and over from Mark Miller - my first meeting (of several over the next few years) with him - we later worked on Radioland Murders together among others - I was fascinated by his lizard man makeup and really enjoyed chatting with him.
I also got a visit from Rocky Morton - who climbed into my cage, looking for something - not sure if it was a glint or gleam he was seeing down below, or possibly scouting some new camera angle that would drive the crew crazy - but I mistook him for one of the assistant directors, which made our chat a bit prickly for the few minutes he was in my cage. He then left and that turned out to be my one direct run-in with the directors.
At one point later I was also one cage straight up from Mojo Nixon - also a very nice man who entertained everyone as much as he was allowed with his impromptu playing and singing on set.
The extras and actors had to be loaded into the cages with scissor lifts, and it was a long and laborious process, so once everyone was loaded, they just kind of left us in there for hours on end. Eventually, seeing some folks being released for drinks and bathroom breaks, I also scored a trip back down to the ground for a while. While up there, I did get to watch the fireball that sails across the room - that was cool. It was an effect done again on the Dinohattan set later more than once - but it was my first on-set special effect in the cages, so I remember that one warmly (pun intended).
One of the cage nights we were out in the holding tent outside, and a ripple came through the crowd - Dennis Hopper had arrived on set! We didn't expect to see him at all until we got to set - but danged if he didn't march right into the tent and tell us all hello! He stayed for a few minutes, chatting with some of the extras - and I got to shake his hand and tell him how much I'd enjoyed his work. He was terrific. He then got bustled off to makeup hair and wardrobe I guess, and when next we saw him on the police station set he was Koopa.
This just made me think - I have to remember to give you the break down on the leads' amazing photo doubles in depth - I mentioned Mike Criscuolo who was the Luigi double - I'll have to give you the lowdown on the others, for Mario, Koopa, and Daisy. But that's another story for another time - I'm wrapping this one up. Next up - Dinohattan!
SA: We've spoken with both Mojo Nixon and Mark Miller before. They were two of our earliest interviews for the site. While a lot of what they have said has become outdated as we interview more and more people, it's still a blast reading them again. They're remarkable people that added a lot to the movie.
I'm really looking forward to what you can say about Dinohattan. It was an amazing set for an amazingly-conceived world.
CE: Dinohattan. Wow. What a set. What a place. It was truly awesome - and even after tromping in to it nearly every day for four months, it was still an amazing place. My first introduction to the place was as an extra, after we'd finished that round of shooting on the police station set. The first time we were taken in I was a moving bystander on the Boom Boom bar side (which I'll refer to as the bar side from here in.) They got us all in, and my first action was just walking down from the movie theater end all the way to the bar. Simple as that. I don't even know what was being shot or where the camera was.
Unlike a lot of the extras on that set, I was still a newbie, being my fourth time on a set, third as a true extra. And this was by far the biggest set and biggest movie I'd ever been on. So I was just being dazzled by all the sights and sound and energy and bustle around me. I wasn't consumed by the need to find the lens and battle my way to it. I eventually learned to at least get some idea of where it was I went on, certainly.
During the downtime between setups the first few days I managed to check out all the doors (locked or not real for the most part) and sidle up into all the nooks and crannies on the bar side. I think of the three sections on that level (counting the walkway, even though it is a bit lower) I think the bar side was the safest. It took a few days, but we gradually spread out the 300 extras across all parts of the set, and I took turns being on the donut shop side and the walkway, although the walkway was a bit boring because there was less to do on camera there unless you had some good props (like a fishing pole). The donut shop was a particularly hot place to be stationed, so I tried to avoid it.
Basically they would like the camera up, and during the lighting of the scene we would rehearse our actions (with constant cries of "QUIET PLEASE!" from 2nd 2nd AD Anthony D'Esposito) and finally shoot it. Repeat for 12-14 hours, usually. Usually a set stays the same for the most part throughout shooting - but Dinohattan got a one side makeover somewhere along the line.
After we'd been shooting on the set for some period of time, on the far end away from the bar, a giant billboard of Koopa kissing a baby appeared, and back where the set originally just kind of faded back into being a cement factory, more stuff was added, like the movie theater facade and other bits and pieces. I'd be interested to see if anyone has explained in their interviews why this happened.
Some other memories I have of Dinohattan: the single longest setup of the entire movie took place on one side near the bar as I was running extras around the stairs up on the other side - an incredible SEVENTY TWO takes of the shot where the necklace drops into Lena's hand. (Lena was a photo double wearing the dress). There was something about the way it happened the first seventy one times that did not satisfy the director (This was either first unit near the end after R&A had moved on, or was on one of my other units - I worked on four different units at different times, five if you count first unit twice under R&A and then under Semler.) But we were all going nuts by the time they wrapped that shot.
All of the stuff with the cars was crazy - they were only there a few days - but they were clunky old cars that never ran as well as would have been liked - one PA assigned to those cars, Teddy, was forever running around with a couple of the Teamsters trying to get or keep several of the cars running while the camera and lights were being set. Late in the shooting, we were doing something on multiple levels, with people all the way up top where Koopa's apartment was, and all the way down to the car area - that was like four levels with the walkway - and I was up top wrangling extras when the 120 degree heat hit me hard all of a sudden - I got faint and everything started swimming - I left my extras with another PA for a few minutes and went down to the relative cool in the bottom - ah, a brisk 90 degrees or so - got a drink from the craft service and took a breather for about ten minutes.
I forgot to mention in my previous police station anecdote that I brought some of that plastic chain home as a souvenir - from Dinohattan I glommed on to a couple of the religious pamphlets about the coming of the fungus. I think I still have all of that stuff boxed up somewhere - I could try to dig it up if you'd like to see pics - and I can scan some other pics, including that one I've already posted of me in costume - I just shot that off the computer screen with my phone and uploaded it - I can get you a proper scan if you'd like. I hope I also still have the print of Dinohattan they gave the crew as a present - haven't seen it in years - but could have a look for it if you're interested in seeing it.
"The open end where they'd removed a wall to open up for the cars at the far end...that was closed in more than it was ever open"
SA: Is this the print you received at the end of shooting? [shows Craig the print] The full image should also have a white border around it that refers to the city as "Dyno-York," which was its original scripted name.
CE: That's the print - notice the open end where they'd removed a wall to open up for the cars at the far end. That was closed in more than it was ever open - man it made it a lot cooler in there when you could get a cross breeze.
SA: Other than that we would love to have photos and scans of any materials you might still have. That "Trust the Fungus" religious pamphlet is of particular interest. Do you recall how long it was and what it was comprised of?
CE: The pamphlets are in two colors - one red, and one blue - I have one of each. The covers are printed with fairly accurate writing about prophecies and the fungus - I think the interiors are gibberish - but I haven't seen one in some time - I will try to have a look for them this weekend.
One other prop that came to me is a carved wooden Bullet Bob fuel thingie for the Thwomp Boots. It is lightly damaged - the ring around the base is chipped - but it is gorgeous - I hope it's still around too - will look.
Another surviving Bullet Bill! These things are resiliant!
SA: It seems there's quite a few of those Bullet Bill cartridges floating around. A few people we've spoken to have them and one of our members has even been able to obtain a few. It's the Bob-Ombs and Thwomp boots that have proven to be difficult to track down. You're lucky to have so much from the set.
CE: I'm going to throw a name out here - Robert "Hamster" Hamilton - he either assisted some of the effects guys, or knew some and was hanging out around set kind of interning with them - he ended up with some of the foam rubber molds for various things - I know he had some molds for rubber versions of the tools on the MB belts - because he cast a foam rubber sledgehammer head for me for a little movie I was making after SMB wrapped - it's not impossible that he might have ended up with the mold for the foam Thwomp boot doubles - and who knows what else? He also lived for a brief time next door to Jeff and Stefania Goodwin - but I haven't seen hide nor hair of him for fifteen years at least.
You know, the Bob-ombs were surprisingly jury rigged and delicate - cobbled together wind-up toy pieces for the most part - I'm not surprised to hear they are hard to find - more about them later.
Back to a couple more Dinohattan stories - we worked for a very long time getting Big Bertha (Francesca) across in her jump boots - between the actress going up in the wire rig briefly, to the shots minus Bertha where she was added in later, to her being doubled by Jeff Johnson for a lot of the wire work - that sequence took a few days to shoot.
Toward the end - it was really cool working closely with the stunt team for the final battle across Dinohattan - the explosion that blows Koopa up in the air was awesome.
Over on the donut side opposite end was where I met Yoshi - he was set up for part of his interaction with Daisy - and unlike a lot of these creatures, he was built really well, and the puppeteers liked working him for practice, so they would have Yoshi interact with anyone who wanted to spend a moment with him. He was really amazing. The giant wad of cables coming out of his backside was the only spoiler - and they computer erased those in the movie beautifully.
Yoshi--in Koopa Square? Maybe there are some deleted scenes there...
CE: It was on the Dinohattan set while back with first unit that I noticed a lady sitting off camera in Daisy's chair - turned out it was her mom visiting the set. Then I recognized her - it was actress Bibi Besch, who played Carol Marcus in Star Trek II! She was a very sweet lady, spending a lot of time knitting off camera. I had actually lined up to interview her for Psychotronic Video magazine, but she left before I could approach her to ask if she'd do it. It was during this time I had most of my interactions with Samantha Mathis - she was great - knowing Jeff Goodwin also helped here - as I was hanging around him when I wasn't needed to wrangle or lock up.
That's about all I can dredge up about Dinohattan at the moment - and from there I'm going to get a little more freeform as my memories of what was shot when get a little jumbled - I think I went downtown with second unit next - so I'll probably go with that.
SA: So you first saw Yoshi out on the Dinohattan set? That's strange to hear since there's no scenes with the character in the actual city. Do you know if they were shooting any scenes with the character out in the city or was it just situated there for practice?
CE: I did see Yoshi out on the Dinohattan set - he was fully set up and operating - surely not a test - I'm pretty sure he was out there to work - something with Daisy and him - but after hanging with him for a moment I was back to work setting extras or running somewhere or getting someone a walkie battery, so I can't swear to it - but I do think they filmed him. He was set up just outside one of the shops - on the donut shop side - but opposite end - almost to the stairs - maybe the last shop there.
SA: We've heard a lot about how well-built the entire Dinohattan set was, particularly from David Snyder himself. He indicated that every storefront had an actual interior. Did any specific shops and their interiors stand out to you, perhaps some that aren't visible in the actual film?
CE: Well, I remember there were open sets behind the walls on the donut store side - but not much was open on the bar side that I remember - they had enough to put some lights in as needed, but not full interiors like the bar and the donut shop did. I guess we stayed out of the rest - hot sets (meaning don't mess up the props and set dressings - not the temperature) and all.
Onwards with second unit - after doing some day work as a PA for ADs Cyndie Williams and Stefania Goodwin, I was hired for a few week stretch with second unit, which was going to be shooting in downtown Wilmington for this run. I was joined by formerly mentioned Jeff Johnson - now also PA-ing. We were working for a guy named Rob Albertell, who has gone on to a lot of movies and TV shows as an assistant director - and does not apparently list SMB on his resume anymore as it's not on his IMDB page either. I guess he is not credited? (And let's address my lack of credit here - sadly, all of my bosses dropped the ball, all thinking I would be put in for credit by one of the other units - of course none did put me in for it - so I ended up with nothing. Sadly it would take 7 more years before I saw my name on the big screen on the movie Virus in 1999.
But I digress. We were downtown to shoot the Mario Bros with the van breakdown, the first restaurant scene (which I think was reshot later on stage?) and quite a bit with Spike and Iggy and their stunt doubles.
We based ourselves and the extras in a sandwich restaurant that I think wasn't doing that great - so they rented the place to the movie for the day(s). It was on Princess between Front and Second. I think it is a bar these days. We were shooting all over downtown for various bits and pieces. The stretch where the van breaks down is on Princess between 2nd and 3rd streets. We had photo doubles for everyone, but we also got Johnny Legs and Samantha and later Fisher and Richard. When Mario is working on the van while John talks to Samantha - that's a double, at least part of the time. My main function was to stand out of sight up on 3rd Street and send extras walking back and forth in different groupings.
This went on for a long time one day. At one point during a setup I was hanging up near my lockup on 3rd and my first bunch of extras were there with me. A bystander sidled up to me and asked what was going on. I advised a movie was filming. She asked if there was anyone famous in it. Without missing a beat I pointed to a well dressed older gentleman working as an extra and said "There's Paul Newman." This lady's eyes went wide. I asked "Mr. Newman" if he would say hello to the lady, and the extra totally went with it - stepped over and shook her hand, and signed an autograph! Maybe mean - but I still think pretty funny. The lady and her friend stayed and watched as we geared up for another take. I sent some of the other extras, and then said "Action Mr. Newman" and the extra took off around the corner again perfectly embodying his new role. Paul Newman really did come to Wilmington the next year for The Hudsucker Proxy - I fantasize about that woman running into the real deal and quizzing him about their previous meeting...
After that sequence, we did a lot with Spike and Iggy and their surveillance, and we had them doubled for some stunts - I was amazed at how sloppy the stuntmen were put together - standing next to them, obvious baldcaps and wigs, etc. On camera - I guess they look okay - though I'm not even sure how much of what we did ended up in the movie - I should watch it again soon!
During this run we also shot something with a cab - they were having fits with the lights in the cab for the shooting - this was at night - it was coming up on midnight and had been an eighteen hour day. This was close to the MB apartment - which we also shot establishing shots of. The apartment was built at the cement plant, but I missed those days - think they may have shot them before I came on the show. For being shunted over to second unit, Fisher and Richard were okay - a little wild, a little rambunctious - both had an eye for the ladies - despite Fisher dating Michelle Pfeiffer at the time - she visited the set - but that was during Dinohattan! Wow she was gorgeous! I worked with Richard again three years later - he was much calmed down then I have to say.
SA: It's too bad that you weren't credited for all that you did for the movie. It's a good thing we managed to come across you. Hopefully this interview will give you the credit you deserve. We really appreciate hearing all of these stories.
Yes, there was a different restaurant scene initially. As you can read on our site, there was a cut scene where Mario and Luigi confront the "Scapelli Bros.," Mike and Doug, inside the Riverfront Cafe. That led to an alternate meeting with Daisy inside the restaurant, but it was all cut out and the Luigi/Daisy meeting was subsequently reshot. We don't know why, though trimming down the time in Brooklyn to get them into the parallel world sooner seems the most likely.
Do you remember any other scenes that were filmed but didn't make it into the final cut?
CE: I uploaded a picture this evening - it's in my folder on my profile called "Me and Them." It has me interacting with a prop/set piece you will recognize - that piece ended up downtown in Wilmington as a decoration in a dance club/bar - and that picture was taken there in the club some months after SMB wrapped.
Now this is hilarious
CE: Other scenes filmed but cut...let me think...and while I do that - I'll tell you the scene that most surprised me when I finally saw the film on screen - the un-devolved King - turning out to be Lance Henriksen - I was shocked because I'm a big fan of his and I'd never seen him or his name on any paperwork or anything - I was told he was added in a Los Angeles reshoot. I haven't had time to check out your whole site - there was more to the MB apartment, I think - it seems like there was more around the archeological dig.
SA: Parker Bennett, one of the original and returning scriptwriters, told us that the King re-evolving back to human form was a last-minute reshoot done by Lance as a personal favor. It's great to add that human factor to the characters, especially since nearly every script has the fungus simply recede and die at the end of the movie, but it's been hard trying to make sense of that. None of the Goombas returned to normal so it's a real plot hole.
CE: I'm going to do this entry as a bits and pieces kind of thing - excellent interview with Mojo, by the way - he's not changed a bit - that interview is like pure distilled Mojo Nixon - great guy!
I notice you asking a lot about the possibility of a sequel - no one says they ever heard anything - man that was all that was talked about in the extras tent, let me tell you - the story went that shortly after SMB 1 would wrap, James Cameron's Spider-Man was going to come to the Ideal cement plant to begin pre-production.
While that was going on, a really terrible script called The Boys of Armageddon High was supposed to shoot as a very low budget "Porky's" style movie there at the plant. The script was being shown around by someone named Hal on the crew - transpo I think - he and his cohorts had supposedly lined Dennis Hopper up to cameo or play a small role in it.
So, SMB out, Spider-Man ala Cameron in for preproduction - Boys of Armageddon High shoots on extremely low budget - then Spider-Man was to shoot, then by that time the preproduction for Super Mario Bros. 2 was to begin, followed by its production a few months later - we were looking at almost solid employment for all of 1993 and part of 1994. Of course, none of the rest of that happened. But the rumors went on for months after SMB wrapped.
SA: Yes, we're very interested in what the possible sequel might have been like. Parker was able to share some tidbits on the direction he would have taken the story, but stated that no sequel was every planned or discussed, let alone drafted.
From what you've said, though, it sounds like the idea was pretty much set in stone. What are your thoughts on the sequel and how do you imagine it might have continued off from where the original ended?
CE: And to clarify about the sequel - there was talk in the ranks - on set with the crew that is - I know it had to have been discussed higher up because on paper this was going to be a big successful film and they wouldn't have left the idea of making another one alone - but the main thrust of my anecdote was the silliness of the rumors you hear - I've heard a lot of rumors about what shows and what famous people are coming to Wilmington in near 20 years of living here - but there have never been rumors that were so structured and detailed; and that brought in the idea of other movies like James Cameron's Spider-Man and The Boys of Armageddon High in addition to the sequel to SMB - but with 300 extras - you get some big time rumor mongering!
SA: The never-realized sequel has always been a fascinating subject for us fans. It's great to hear that there was so much expectations and anticipation for one on the set.
CE: Here's my favorite Rocky and Annabel story - one day, first unit was to shoot in I think Koopa's office or apartment. The art department had been scrambling getting the set ready. On the first day to shoot there, Rocky and Annabel come in before crew call to look the set over. They both take objection to the placement of some kind of wall or something.
They yell, and point 180 degrees away from where the thing was - like it was the North wall, and they yell "That doesn't look right there! And they both turned and pointed at the South wall - "It should be over there!" And the set designer tells them that the piece was designed to be the North wall, the set only makes sense if it is the North wall and the kicker: to move that piece will require an entire day's work and nothing will be able to be shot there. R&A insist. The producers join the battle - trying to get the directors to let it go - they are adamant and stand fast - it must be the South wall.
So, the producers give in, the art director orders the piece moved, and the assistant directors scramble to find something else to shoot - and communicate this completely unplanned for new shoot to every department that will need to know - props, costumes, makeup, actors, etc. Okay, something else is shot for the day - the next day, R&A come back to the set, where the wall is now the South wall. They stand and look at it for a few minutes, then say "Oh, you know what, you were right - it should be the North wall."
And at that point - yes - seriously - they had to do the scramble for something else to shoot AGAIN so another entire day could be lost to moving this thing back to the North wall. Rocky and Annabel. Yes, they had something to do with the creation of Max Headroom. But then they made a poorly received version of the movie D.O.A. and then this movie, after which they fell off the Hollywood radar - though it appears both are doing well in separate directing careers on smaller projects.
SA: That's a funny story about Rocky and Annabel. Sounds just like them. We've also heard they weren't bad people... Just in over their heads. D.O.A. wasn't a smash hit, but it was atmospheric and had an excellent score. Very underrated if you ask us.
Rocky is currently directing award-winning commercials as he did before while Annabel recently directed a well-received T.V. adaptation of the novel Skellig. They're not in Hollywood anymore, unfortunately, but they seem to be doing alright.
CE: Photo doubles - for a lot of the wide shots, especially as the camera focused on one or two characters - but other characters might be far in the background or something - they had photo doubles suited up, with hair and makeup to match the actors so the ones not truly on camera wouldn't need to come to set to be in the deep background - or to provide a shot of a hand or a shoe.
Bob Hoskins brought a man with him who is his exact height and shape - who was his stand-in. Stand-ins do what the name says - they stand in the actor's place for lighting while the actor steps away to have hair makeup and wardrobe touched up or to get into character or whatever.
So, the process is, rehearsal, the blocking and lines are worked out - then the actors step out to get ready and the stand ins step in and get lit. So the stand-ins need to be the same general height, coloration, and wear the same color clothes (maybe not exact matches).
So Bob Hoskins brought a guy with him who was an assistant and a stand-in. He could also photo double in a pinch, but he was not an exact lookalike. Well, they found an extra who did look almost exactly like him. I can't remember his name, Neil something, but he would suit up a lot - and at a distance of 15-20 feet - it was hard to tell them apart. They got Mike Criscuolo to photo double Luigi.
I forget the young woman who photo doubled Daisy - but she had started as an extra and stand in and graduated up to photo double (each of those is a bump in pay too). She might also have been a production assistant at some point; Mike C was for sure.
Then for Koopa, they got this very interesting fellow named Fred Allen. He had started out as one of the extra cops in the police station - but he was close enough to Dennis Hopper in appearance that he was picked to be the photo double - he had dark brown hair - which got bleached blonde and would be done up Koopa style each day - and he shaved his eyebrows too - he wasn't as dead on as Mario's double - but he looked pretty good at a distance of 20-30 feet.
Fred was a lawyer here in town, and to stay in shape he would roller blade up and down College Road (a very busy road) in Wilmington - would see him out there for years after the movie wrapped. I haven't seen him now for a long time - he was a great guy - all the photo doubles were pretty cool, actually.
I saw in some pics in the forum somebody talking about the pig lady - she was a good sport - forget her name - but she let them dude her up in black spandex and the pig nose thing - there were three or four of the pig ladies in the donut shop, all heavy set and in the same kind of outfits.
Here are some of the extras who I remember from the set - I don't know if these names help in tracking down more memories - but these people worked hard and were uncredited - like me! I obviously don't remember that many of the 300 - but here goes:
George Ayash (he was a very old fellow who showed up to more than one set in full Zorro gear - he was 80 if he was a day - but would hear nothing of being old from anyone. He wore a heavy black toupee/wig - real character)
Morty and Zelda Geen (parents of my friends Jeff and David Geen - all four worked on SMB!)
Betty Grapentine (she was an older woman - had much the same self image as George: imagined herself much younger - hit on the young men - another character - she can be seen singing opera to a fading teen idol in the Wilmington-shot Empire Records).
Mike Mott (a professional extra - started out in The Towering Inferno - spottable for sure in some of the Ernest P. Worrell movies - and all over SMB - cop, blacksmith in black spandex - Dinohattan citizen - good guy).
Marc Whitehead (South African fellow - funny, great accent - Dinohattan cop and others).
Michael O'Brien (day trade investor turned extra/actor - Dinohattan cop and others).
Jeb Toms (long haired theater student - we met on the set near the Boom Boom bar early in the shoot, and we're best friends to this day!)
Phoebe Dollar (moved on to fringe and exploitation filmmaking in Los Angeles after SMB - works a lot with Ron Jeremy in his (non-adult) horror movies and thrillers.)
I'll list more if names come to mind.
After second unit, I worked days with first unit again as a day player PA, then got a few days work on the blue screen unit (officially dubbed the Visual Effects unit) working for my new pal Stefania Goodwin, who was being the first AD for this unit's director, Christopher Woods.
Although it was initially interesting to see the blue screen stuff being set up - this ended up being the least interesting days on the entire movie for me - this stuff took FOREVER to set up and shoot. I worked for a few days - we did like four shots - something with Bob and John, some Koopa stuff, (not Dennis Hopper), something else, and the Scapelli devolve - though that did mean I got to work with the chimpanzee - though with the recent stories about them this would only frighten me now!
Also tonight - ice slide time! After the police station was completed, the outer area where the car pulls up became the meteorite chamber - and the police station itself was struck and the ice slide tunnel was built in the same spot. It was pretty neat - it went up for the load in platform about forty feet or so - then it went down, with a curve, and then came out probably around the area where the desk sergeant had sat previously. I was elsewhere for the first unit shoot on this - but came on to work several days with the stunt guys and some doubles. We were mainly doing stuff with the Goombas hitting the ice wall, the Goomba sled flip, the two Goombas body surfing the rest of the way, and the inserts for the insertion of the wrench (spanner), and the Goomba boots sparking.
The man in charge of the stunt team for this sequence was Warren A. Stevens - who had cracked a rib or ribs doing some stunt previously on the show - but who still suited up as a Goomba and took the run into the ice stalactites! And let me tell you something about those ice stalactites - they were made of the same kind of plastic material that breakaway bottles are made from - but breakaway bottles are paper thin and that stuff is so easy to break the bottles can barely hold their own structure sometimes - but the icicles in this scene were two and three inches in diameter and as heavy as baseball bats - and although I would have thought they would have been scored to break more easily - I don't think they were - so the stunt Goombas were slamming into these things with a fair amount of speed and whammo!
We did two or three takes of the hit - it took a long time to get the new icicles in place - it was really cool watching the effects guy make them just offset from the end of the tunnel. I'm not sure how many runs were made with cameras rolling in my time on this unit - but I would guess it was more than a hundred. I also got to take a run as well - it was not as fast as a water slide - but it was a ride!
After that sequence we moved outside to shoot the stunts with the mattress flying out of the end of the tunnel - another long couple of nights. The mattress bursting out of the tunnel was really fun when it was finally done - full size with dummies on the mattress - it landed quite a distance from the end of the tunnel. The finale of the mattress sequence was done later on the Dinohattan set - with some blue screen work with Bob and the girls in between...the stunt with the mattress coming down was scary - it did flip over one time as they came in to land - it was bad - they could have had their heads smashed when it turned over - but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. I've heard stories that it was a Mario double with the real Brooklyn girls - but my memory is that the girls were doubled for this. I remember this because the stunt girls looked almost as good in the outfits as the real girls...
Before I go on with my last stories to wrap this up, I really need to sit down and watch the whole movie again - I have watched some clips on YouTube and your website - and it has amazed me how much of the last half hour I was present for - across the entire shooting schedule - but I want to refresh my memory before I go on. I don't own the movie - I've been waiting for an anamorphic or high def release. But I'll either Netflix it or buy the DVD. Give me a couple of days on this - in the meantime, feel free to ask any direct questions you have.
SA: We've been pushing for a hi-def and possibly extended re-release for awhile now. The movie is a top seller in several categories on Amazon, regularly outselling movies many more "popular" Disney films.
We wouldn't want such a release so much if it wasn't for the fact that nearly every region other than the U.S. has both a widescreen anamorphic and high picture quality release. Some even have special features. The best quality we've found so far was the Swedish release, which came out just last year.
CE: I don't remember exactly when it was, but after Dinohattan, and I'm thinking before downtown with second unit I was briefly hired to be a lighting stand-in for Jeff Pillars' character. I remember this as a smaller unit shooting this sequence as I would have been more intimidated working that close to the D'Esposito boys (1st and 2nd 2nd AD)
Over my standard issue black t shirt and dark jeans I had to suit up in a cheaper version of the gear Jeff and Kevin West wore. Wow that made it an already hot set that much more toasty! After a set up or two where I stood in for him, I think Jeff got a little weirded out having a stand-in and he in effect dismissed me, standing in for his own self. I was not truly dismissed however, and I stayed around helping out here and there. Now this was not the sequence with Dennis Hopper - I think it was pieces from it - but he was not there when I was. No Stevens or Edson either.
Don West was there, and the two technicians and some Goombas. It was shots of the technicians working, Don Lake being dragged in, stuff like that. I would think this would have been pickup stuff that first unit had missed that the script supervisor indicated would be needed by the editors, so they geared up the smaller unit to shoot the inserts and shots not involving the top listed cast. I only worked on that set for a day or two.
Kevin West was somewhat famous at that time for starring in a very manic pizza commercial (Dominos, I think?) but he was fairly muted on set, as was Jeff Pillars. They joked some, but no big flareups or anything. It was still a fun piece of the production for me - my first stand-in work!
SA: So you stood in for Jeff Pillars. Do you recall if he and Kevin West filmed additional scenes with their characters? Both had expanded roles in the scripts as characters Wart and Bloober, respectively, who were additional advisers to Koopa like Don Lake's Sgt. Simon.
Also, as long as we're on that subject, do you remember anything about the extended de-evolution sequence? We have a basic rundown and some photos/video on our site under Deleted Scenes, but that whole scene is pretty muddled. We're still not sure exactly how it was filmed.
CE: I don't think there was much else shot with them - this stuff on these days was reaction shots, and inserts of hands, things that didn't involve Koopa, Iggy or Spike directly; things like that - but I also think they were already trimming and rewriting at this point, so I don't remember those guys shooting anything else.
SA: Jeff spoke of his role in the movie a couple days ago on a radio show and he said something to the effect that there was originally as much as four hours of film with a good portion involving him and Kevin. From what we know from other sources, that doesn't sound very likely.
Here's a weird story - the only time in my entire production career I pulled something like this off. I mentioned before that for a period there were two films shooting in/near Wilmington: SMB and the comedy Amos & Andrew. (Young Indiana Jones was also in town right around this time).
Well, I worked on SMB one day as an extra - during the police station. I went in early, like 6:30-7:00am. Worked all day, getting released for the day with no callback for the next day around 7:00-8:00pm. I got home and found a message one of my roommates had taken that said Amos & Andrew (which shot only nights) needed me as a extra - so I quickly showered, changed, and jumped back in my car and headed out to that set (on the other side of Wilmington from Ideal Cement).
I arrive around 8:30-9:00 and discover they are happy to have me. I figure I'll shoot all night on A&A, then sleep all the next day. It was a looooong night. Around 4 or 5 am I was really sleepy, but I muddled through the rest of that evening into the coming dawn, which was always A&A's wrap time. I stumble back into the apartment around 6:00am, and find a message that apparently had come in five minutes after I'd left for A&A the night before requesting me to come in for another day's work on SMB! And by golly, I needed the work and the money!
Another shower, another change, and I drove back out to the cement plant, now past the 24 hours up with no sleep mark. I worked all day on the police station set, and most of the day is a blur. But on the back side of the day, I was sent into an office in one of the station hallways with the direction to "do office-y stuff" behind the frosted glass office windows while first unit shot some kind of action scene out in the hallway.
I walked around the desk, talked on the phone, sat at the desk, rummaged in the drawers (found the first set of "sides" (mini script of just one day's scenes for the actors to use throughout the day)) I'd ever seen in that desk...anyway, there was a long lighting setup in there, and they just left us on set as we were out of the way and quiet, and I started drifting badly, not quite sleeping, but as close as you can get.
Thankfully this early in the show they weren't needing to go 18 hours (yet) so they wrapped (or wrapped us extras) around 5-6 pm. I somehow managed to drive home, now 36 hours in and no sleep. I had no call time for either show and was planning to meet some friends for dinner. Got back to the apartment, half afraid that Amos & Andrew would have left another message for me - not sure what I would have done there, but thankfully they didn't. I got to my place, planning a shower before dinner, sat down on my bed - and it was suddenly the next afternoon. Slept straight through like 18 hours or something.
On single shows, I had some 18s on SMB, hit my record of 22 hours twice, once on Radioland Murders, and once on the TV movie Secrets from the Rose Garden, but the combo SMB/A&A got me an amazing 30+ straight hours working!
I had another question - do you guys have any or all of the production call sheets and/or the production reports for any of the units?
SA: No, we don't have any of those documents. The extent of our documentation are the scripts/writing notes and the press kit. Nothing internal.
CE: First unit had shot the bulk of the scene, which I was not present for, so I missed the bulk of the shooting. I should have been keeping a call sheet and a production report for every day I worked for later presentation to the Director's Guild of America - 600 days and you become eligible to be hired as a DGA 2nd or 2nd 2nd AD. However, no one thought to tell me that until late in the show, and I scrambled to grab some copies that were left around after the show had wrapped. I still have those - they will tell you what scenes were shooting for those days, who was working (cast and crew) what props and effects were called for, and give brief reports of accidents and injuries - would you like a set of the few I have?
SA: We would definitely like a set of those documents.
CE: I'll get them to you as soon as I can - might be a week or two. Also, two things about the Parker Bennett interview:
The Crow was shot in the spring/summer of 1993 - the year after SMB, not before.
And the pizza guy was the son of the 2nd unit first assistant director - who was a PA on the show as well - Zach - and he was a funny, stoner sort of guy, and everybody liked him - and they kept adding stuff for him to do - I sensed a little "let's have some fun with this guy" about it, but also a little "this might be something we can cut away to if we need it" about all the stuff we shot with him.
Matthew Zachary Hopkins, "a funny, stoner sort of guy," who played the much-reviled "Python Pizza" Boy
CE: Also, the driver of the car who gets the closeup - slamming on brakes, etc - with the wild hair - that's Robert Hoelen - the best boy grip. Those are the crew members and family of crew members I mentioned waaaay back there somewhere.
Nice interview with Rothbard - I don't remember him on set much - as the production manager - he was up in the offices he mentioned during most of the shooting do production manager stuff. I think I met him when Cyndie Williams wanted to hire me - he okayed me. That was my only interaction with him. No notes on his interview.
SA: Good information. That pizza guy stuff was just terrible. Slows the pacing.
CE: Well let's get back in the saddle.
And here are the sequences I was not a part of in any way: all of Koopa's apartment, all of the SMB's apartment interiors, the meteorite chamber, the desert sequence (I was working on the show, but I stayed back at the cement plant building while the rest of the small crew trekked out behind the place to the desert area - more on that in a few as this was my main interaction with Bob Hoskins) and the tunnel where the SMB's come to Dinohattan.
Wow - all over that ending, though. By the time the mattress lands, Dean Semler was directing. I saw the mattress flip - the second reason I was never comfortable around movie stunts after that. I was not present for most of the real Bob Hoskins and real Dennis Hopper's interactions on the center walkway, as they were shot mostly sans extras and we extra PAs were not needed for most of that.
However, every shot that does not involve a principal actor I was there for - from hand shots to the fireball going in the neon donut, from the larger crowd scenes to Koopa being blown up - here's a weird thing about that - one of the Jensen stunt boys - I'm thinking it was Ethan - was in the Koopa suit wearing the grinning lizard face mask for a few days and they actually blew him up at one point - but the main section of that sequence that you see is from above as a Koopa dummy is flung up nearly hitting camera, then tumbling back down all boneless. I always thought that looked a little silly, myself. I'm not sure why they didn't use much of Ethan taking an explosive one for the team, as on set it looked pretty amazing.
I know some of the actors weren't fond of Dean Semler's directorial style - I thought he was great. He was handed a film that had gone way over budget and over schedule and his job was to basically get the damned thing finished and provide enough connective footage to try to make the movie make sense - so there was a lot of pressure on the guy - but he was very personable and wasn't letting that pressure show.
SA: You mentioned earlier that you had worked on the unit that did the Bob-Omb scene at the end of the film. Could you tell us a little about that?
CE: The Bob-omb sequence might have been my favorite to work on, actually. There was a sense of fun and even possibly adventure about getting these shots of this little guy walking around under the main action. I was around for every shot of the Bob-omb except for Bob Hoskins setting him down. From the first walking shot with the zoom through Koopa going up we shot all of that across a few days or a week. They tricked the little guy up to walk up walls with a rod that ran through a groove hidden in the wall piece. The upside down stuff was shot right side up of course, then flipped in post. The sequence where he falls down the fungus tunnel was basically dropping the guy down the same piece of upright tunnel six or seven times, trying hard not to catch the fungus on fire. They then edited the various drops into one sequence with three or four pieces to it.
This was also where Best Boy Grip Robert Hoelen got to play the frightened crazy car driver who slams on the brakes to let the Bob-omb walk on by. Love that Bob-omb!
Best Boy Grip Robert Hoelen, affectionately known by fans as the "Clown Shoes Man."
SA: Do you recall if any additional shots were filmed with it that didn't make it into the finished film? I can imagine a lot more scenes showing it's journey through the city and interaction with Dinohattan citizens might have been shot.
CE: The only other shots of Bob-Omb were more or different climbing shots - I remember it was difficult to make the little guy look like he was doing the work, and keep the rod helping him hidden and secret. There weren't any other wide shots of interactions with Dinohattanites. Possibly a few other very tight closeups of him walking through other bits of the city.
As you will see from the call sheets, we had the shots scheduled in, and time was the flame in which the entire crew burned, if I can quote a Star Trek villain.
Speaking of the cars - watching the movie again - they are in the movie a lot more than I remembered - I think there was a unit shooting just car stuff when my unit was downtown shooting other stuff - because my memories of the car stuff was like a few days of shooting, and there's more in the movie than that.
SA: Do you have any additional stories concerning your interaction with the lead cast?
CE: So I'm working on one of the subsidiary units - they started to blur after a while - and we were scheduled to shoot something with Bob Hoskins at the desert area - for some reason, I don't think Johnny was involved in this piece. Well, they told me, the PA, that I would be the one to greet Bob Hoskins when he arrived; and that I would let him know that he should go straight to hair and makeup as his trailer was not at the main basecamp near the building - but was instead out at the location to give him an air conditioned place to hang out between takes.
So Bob Hoskins' car arrives, and he gets out - his hand broken at this point - and he's holding a big pile of magazines. I say "Hi, Mr. Hoskins, I'm Craig, and they're ready for you in hair and makeup." He smiles and holds the magazines out. "Right you are, and would you put these in my trailer?" I reach out slowly and reply "Well, actually, they've taken your trailer out to the loca--" and I get cut off by a blistering stream of incredible British profanity "mother this and stupid GD that" which I don't immediately realize is being directed at the production staff above me. All I know if that within thirty seconds of meeting the first actor I've ever been asked to "handle" I'm in a swearstorm of Biblical proportions.
Apparently as he continued finding ever more ways to guarantee my movie biography an R rating (if not NC-17), Bob sees me starting to fold up like an overused road map. He suddenly cuts off in mid-invective and says "Oh, you know none of this is directed at you, don't you darling?" And I was able to breathe again. Satisfied that he'd done no permanent damage to me, we continued on to the makeup trailer.
As he climbed the steps inside, I heard him take off again as he provided his very salty opinion on everyone making decisions on this movie to the hair and makeup staff. When he was finished with hair and makeup - a very short time - I walked him to a waiting van and sent him out to location. Hours later, he returned, signed out with me and that was that. My first time handling 'first team.'
SA: What did you think of the movie when you first saw it?
CE: Wow - well, it seemed to take FOREVER to come out, so my anticipation was great. And remember that I was still living in the dream where I'd be seen all over the movie and the background scenes I'd set as a production assistant would be comedy gold that would have people ignoring the movie.
Then - it wasn't quite that way in the crew screening they gave us. But at the same time, to see all the scenes I'd worked and sweated and bled (don't ask) for playing out--in an audience consisting of all crew members--we had a really good time watching it.
SA: Have you watched the movie since and, if so, has your opinion of it changed over time?
CE: I'm pretty sure I showed it to my nieces when I went back to my family for Christmas in Illinois when it had come to video - they would have been 10 or 11 and 7 or so. Watching it with them was again a kick - because they played the games, and their uncle had worked on it, even if you couldn't see him much in the movie.
So back then it was still a lot of fun to see. I've seen it or pieces of it a couple of times since, and I feel like there were so many missed opportunities to make what could have been a classic kid movie - but at the same time I still thoroughly enjoy seeing what did end up on screen. I'll watch the movie anytime with anyone who hasn't seen it and wants to.
SA: What are your thoughts knowing that the film has a huge cult following?
CE: I think that is awesome - I mean, for what I said before, about missed opportunities - there's still a lot to love about the movie: great cast, incredible sets, cool special effects (and they are cool - despite being 2 decades later) - it just could have been MORE. But that someone appreciates the work of hundreds (thousands?) of crew and cast and extras and post production people is really terrific.
SA: What do you think about our efforts in trying to get quality re-release, hopefully remastered and extended?
CE: I'm all for efforts like that even when I didn't work on the movie - so of course I'd like to see you guys get a good payoff - which would be a giant 2 or 3 disc Blu-Ray Ultimate Edition, with completely remastered everything, a branching new edit, special features out the wazoo - and why not? The first commentary by an uncredited production assistant!
SA: Finally, what have you done since Super Mario Bros.? What are you up to these days?
CE: After SMB I continued to work in the film industry mainly here in Wilmington NC. I worked on other features (like Empire Records, Stephen King's Night Flier, Shadrach, George Lucas's Radioland Murders, and Virus among others); TV movies (The Twilight Zone: Rod Serling's Lost Classics for CBS; The Margaret Mitchell Story for NBC; The Face on the Milk Carton for Lifetime - in fact, it seems I have something on the Lifetime Movie Network every week); TV series (The single season of American Gothic for CBS; four seasons of Dawson's Creek for the WB).
After ten years, as I was preparing to join the Director's Guild of America as an assistant director, Canada's tax breaks started taking almost all of the production work away from Wilmington. It was too scary to go from being the production assistant called to work on shows without even submitting a resume to being a 2nd 2nd Assistant Director with the least experience in that job in a city where the only shows shooting were one WB series and the occasional indie film. I'd put down roots too, and moving to other cities wasn't in the cards for me.
I got out of the business for the most part, but have kept a toe in with some local indie producers - I have a couple of horror movie scripts out there in their hands I keep hoping will be in production one day soon.