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Roger Corman

Roger Corman: Interviews

Edited by Constantine Nasr
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Roger Corman
    Book Description:

    Roger Corman (b. 1926) is known by many names-craftsman, artist, maverick, schlock-meister, mini-mogul, mentor, cheapskate, and King of the B's. Yet his commitment to filmmaking remains inspired. He learned his craft at the end of the studio system, only to rebel against Hollywood and define himself as the true independent. And the list of directors and producers who learned under his tutelage--Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Jonathan Demme, and many more--is astonishing.

    Collected here are many of the most honest and revealing interviews of his epic career, several of which have never been seen in print.Roger Corman: Interviewsbrings into focus a life committed to the entertaining art of motion pictures.

    Corman's rare talent combined artistic drive with business savvy, ensuring a successful career that was constantly in motion. At a remarkable pace more akin to silent movies than modern Hollywood, he directed over fifty films in less than fifteen years, some entertaining (Not of This Earth), trendsetting (The Wild Angels), daring (The Intruder), workmanlike (Apache Woman), stylized (The Masque of the Red Death) and even profound (X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes). In a single year, Corman famously shot a cult classic in two and a half days (The Little Shop of Horrors), reinvigorated the American horror film with a dash of Poe and Price (House of Usher)--and still turned out a few more films shot across the globe. Recently awarded an honorary Oscar for his lifetime contribution to cinema, the self-made Corman has created a legacy as a defining filmmaker.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-167-0
    Subjects: Film Studies, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xvi)

    Roger Corman once hired a first-time director and gave him this advice: “What you have to get is a very good first reel, because people want to know what’s going on. Then you need to have a very good last reel because people want to hear how it all turns out. Everything else doesn’t matter.” Many years later, Martin Scorsese admitted that the guidance was “probably the best sense I have ever heard in the movies.”¹

    After sixty-plus years of nonstop activity, Roger Corman has created a body of work that surpasses in quantity the output of workhorses John Ford,...

  4. Chronology
    (pp. xvii-xxii)
  5. Filmography
    (pp. xxiii-2)
  6. Science-Fiction in Danger 1957
    (pp. 3-4)
    Roger Corman

    Science-fiction, which has become as staple a production category as westerns, is in danger.

    The danger is not from outer space but inner man. The hazard was created by the very success of science-fiction, which predisposes to routine instead of imaginative plotting. That’s a broad accusation to level against a form of film which depends for its success on imagination. But it is routine imagination that threatens the sci-fi feature. The paste-up of plots is clipping the wings of a kind of picture that can give wings to the audience mind.

    There is a difference between the over-contrived science-fiction feature...

  7. Corman Speaks 1964
    (pp. 5-22)
    Bertrand Tavernier, Bernard Eisenschitz, Christopher Wicking and Roger Corman

    Q: At the beginning of your career, did you have any connection to the movies?

    A: No, just with thermodynamics and electronics, a whole world I no longer have anything to do with now.

    Right in the middle of my studies at Stanford, I realized that I didn’t really want to see them through. In fact, I got the highest grade on the physics exam in my first year at Stanford, and during my second year, I got the main part in a show. I remember the criticism from professors who thought I was ditching a good career to go...

  8. Roger Corman: A Double Life 1969
    (pp. 23-31)
    Digby Diehl and Roger Corman

    At forty-three, Roger Corman is getting used to living a double life. In the United States he has earned a vivid renown as “King of the Grade B’s” from a series of inexpensive horror and sci-fi films. Abroad, however, he has been praised for cinematic brilliance and is the youngest director to have a retrospective showing at the French Film Institute.

    Corman was born in Detroit but went to high school in Beverly Hills. From 1944 to 1946, he served in the Navy, after which he earned a B.S. from Stanford and later studied at Oxford on the G.I. Bill....

  9. Roger Corman 1969
    (pp. 32-43)
    Joseph Gelmis and Roger Corman

    Joseph Gelmis: How many films have you directed?

    Roger Corman: I don’t know exactly. I’ve directed somewhere between fifty-five and sixty. And I’ve produced somewhere between 100 and 110, including some of the ones I’ve directed.

    JG: What time period does this span?

    RC: I think from about 1954 or ’55. I produced my first film in ’54 and directed in ’55. I produced a film calledMonster from the Ocean Floor. And the first film I directed was a western called Five Guns West.

    JG: What’s the highest budget you’ve worked with?

    RC:The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. It...

  10. The American Film Institute Seminar with Roger Corman 1970
    (pp. 44-61)
    American Film Institute and Roger Corman

    Q: Do you presently use IA crews?

    A: It divides up in various ways. In the films that I’ve personally directed, I’ve always used an IA crew until the very last picture I did in which I used a Nabet crew. On the films I’ve financed because I backed some low-budget films, we will sometimes go IA, sometimes Nabet—most generally, we have not gone for a seal of any kind.

    The way the seal, the IA-bug, works is the major studios—that is the old line majors—have contracts with the IA that states that every film they make...

  11. The Making of The Wild Angels: An Interview with Roger Corman 1972
    (pp. 62-71)
    John Mason and Roger Corman

    In the following interview, producer/director-now-distributor Roger Corman talks about the making and broader social significance ofThe Wild Angels(American International, 1966). The preface to the film reads, “The picture you are about to see will shock you and perhaps anger you. Although the events and characters are fictitious, the story is a reflection of our times.” The film is about a lawless, Nazi-oriented group of motorcyclists in rebellion against conformity whose constant partying ends in one member’s accidental death, followed by his funeral during which the gang ties up and assaults the minister, destroys the church, defiles the dead...

  12. Roger Corman Interview 1973
    (pp. 72-82)
    Todd McCarthy, Charles Flynn and Roger Corman

    Roger Corman, businesslike as always, suggested we interview him at his New World Pictures office. The office itself, decorated with posters for Rohmer’sL’Amour, l’aprês-midi(1972) and the British Film Institute’s Corman retrospective, is on the top floor of a Sunset Strip building. One reaches New World by ascending in a glass-enclosed elevator.

    After speaking to an associate who was setting up the East African distribution ofThe Student Teachers(1973), Corman turned to the interview.

    Roger Corman rode the crest of just about every major film trend of the last twenty years: teenpix, sci-fi movies, the Poe cycle, motorcycle...

  13. Meeting with Roger Corman 1973
    (pp. 83-89)
    Patrick Schupp and Roger Corman

    Roger Corman is rather spare with his interviews. SoSéquencesseized the opportunity of his arrival in Montreal to preside over the 1973 Canadian Film Awards to ask a few questions of one of the masters of fantasy cinema.

    PS: Mr. Corman, can you tell me how you started your series on Edgar Poe?

    RC: I was working at the time for a studio that had us make groups of two films with a small budget—about $100,000 or $200,000—in black and white. We sold them as a group.

    PS:Attack of the Crab Monsters and Not of This...

  14. Working with Young Directors 1974
    (pp. 90-93)
    Roger Corman

    The position of the majority of young film school graduates looking for the opportunity to direct their first feature film is one with which I fully sympathize. I remember what it was like when I was first starting out, trying to gain a foothold in the motion picture industry and quickly discovering that there simply was no way to start from the bottom and work your way up to becoming a motion picture director. I worked at a number of jobs to build up as varied an apprenticeship as I could obtain at that time, including being a messenger boy...

  15. Roger Corman Interview 1975
    (pp. 94-102)
    Larry Salvato and Roger Corman

    Today Roger Corman, in the producer’s role, is one of the most respected men in Hollywood. Through the success of his own company, New World Pictures, he has proven to the film community that a small, independent company can wield a good deal of power in the movie marketplace.

    For Corman, the road to independence was not easy. In the fifties, high-brow critics laughed when they sat down to review any of the numerous low-budget films that he had directed in his early affiliation with American International Pictures. His name was more or less associated with everything that was cheap,...

  16. Filmmaking in Hollywood: The Changing Scene 1980
    (pp. 103-111)
    Roger Corman

    My subject today includes spotting new talent for the motion picture industry, which, to a certain extent, is a matter of being lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and, on top of that, hopefully exercising some judgment.

    I’ve just arbitrarily divided the subject up into four sections—those that I am the most familiar with and have dealt with most frequently: actors, writers, directors, and producers. However, Cal Bernstein, who spoke a little bit earlier, was talking about various cameramen and I realized that he and I had worked with some of the same...

  17. Motion Picture Production Considerations in the 1980s 1982
    (pp. 112-116)
    Roger Corman

    For me, production starts right at the beginning. It is part of the creative process. For any method of motion picture production to be efficient, the aspects of the physical producing must be integrally tied into the financing, the screenwriting, the casting, and all of the other aspects of the making of the film.

    One of the things I’ve seen go wrong on a number of films occurs when the producer has a certain set amount of financing available, and then, while he is working with the writer and the director, concepts come up that from the beginning could never...

  18. Roger Corman: Better to Be on the Set than in the Office 1984
    (pp. 117-129)
    David Del Valle and Roger Corman

    David Del Valle: What was the concept of the Poe series? Did you initially just plan to make one film withThe House of Usher, or did you see it as a series at the time?

    Roger Corman: My original thought was simply to makeThe Fall of the House of Usher. I had been a great admirer of Poe since I’d been in school, and I’d always wanted to make that particular film and at that time I was making a series of low-budget pictures, generally black and white, on ten-day schedules, for about $100,000 or less for AIP...

  19. Cautionary Fables: An Interview with Roger Corman 1984
    (pp. 130-135)
    Ed Naha and Roger Corman

    Ed Naha: You first dabbled in futuristic fiction in the mid-fifties, beginning with your fourth film as director,The Day the World Ended(1955). This was a cautionary film about the aftermath of nuclear war. Were you first attracted to the science fiction genre because you felt it would allow you the opportunity to say something meaningful to movie audiences?

    Roger Corman: I think I was trying to find an area of film that interested me and where, within the contexts of the action movie, I could possibly portray some of my ideas concerning the future. I had always been...

  20. The Orson Welles of the Z Picture: An Interview with Roger Corman 1986
    (pp. 136-147)
    Wheeler Winston Dixon and Roger Corman

    On 21 April 1986, I invited producer-director Roger Corman to the University of Nebraska for a detailed public question-and-answer session as part of a week-long retrospective on Corman’s career as a filmmaker. Our interview actually began in the cellar of the theater where we were screeningCries and Whispers; a tornado siren sent the entire audience under cover, and ever conscious of time and money, Roger insisted that we begin the interview then and there.

    Wheeler Winston Dixon: One of the films that we’re running here in the retrospective,Little Shop of Horrors, was shot in two days and one...

  21. An Interview with Roger Corman 1990
    (pp. 148-158)
    Robert Benayoun, Jean-Pierre Berthomé, Michel Ciment and Roger Corman

    Q: When you worked with American International Pictures, the company established a style of films intended for teenagers. How responsible were you for this concept?

    A: It was the joint decision of James Nicholson, Samuel Z. Arkoff, and myself. AIP was a small company at the time that started up without a lot of money, and we were struck by the fact that most people we saw in the theaters were very young audiences the major studios didn’t seem to be paying the least attention to. The stars had become fairly old, so well known that their names had become...

  22. Roger Corman: A Mini-Mogul Directs Again 1990
    (pp. 159-168)
    Gregory Solman and Roger Corman

    Like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein monster, Roger Corman’s directorial career wore a death mask for the last two decades. But beneath the surface appearance, it was very much alive and spiritually kindred to the work that haunted those dark, echoing memory chambers of the 1960s, and later, to the films it had inspired—and, in a real sense, created—by its earlier manifestation. From the beginning of his career, Corman has lived this seminal myth. As film theorist Leo Braudy points out, it’s a common metaphor for the act of filmmaking, “bring[ing] scientist and magician together in a typically cinematic conflation.”...

  23. California Gothic: The Corman/Haller Collaboration 2006
    (pp. 169-200)
    Lawrence French and Roger Corman

    The following interview with Roger Corman, Daniel Haller, and Joe Dante began as an afterthought while I was doing research for the bookVisions of Deaths(Gauntlet Press), which contains Richard Matheson’s complete shooting scripts for bothHouse of UsherandThe Pit and the Pendulum, along with my articles detailing the making of both films. Since I was going to be visiting with Richard Matheson to discuss his work for Roger Corman I thought it would be a good idea to get Matheson and Corman together to reminisce about their days at American International Pictures. Joe Dante, who had...

  24. Corman: Godfather of the A’s 2008
    (pp. 201-218)
    Constantine Nasr and Roger Corman

    In November 2008, I visited the Brentwood offices of Concorde-New Horizon Pictures, the longtime production hub of Roger Corman. Nearly fifteen years had passed since I’d walked its halls and worked its floors as a development intern. The bustling nature of the office that I remembered was replaced by an unnatural silence of an enterprise in transition. However, Corman was still making pictures, and on the day I came calling, he had several meetings to attend; one film was in pre-production, another was in post. Business as usual. His presence remained just as powerful, and as purposeful, as my glorified...

  25. Academy Award Acceptance Speech 2009
    (pp. 219-220)
    Roger Corman

    Needless to say I’m delighted to accept this Oscar personally, but I’d also like to accept it on behalf of my wife Julie, who’s been my producing partner for many years, and also on behalf of those who’ve worked in the field in which I’ve spent most of my career, the independent filmmakers.

    We all work in what I think is the only true modern art form. All other arts had their origins in antiquity and are therefore, to a certain extent, static. Motion pictures encompass movement, which is one of the key characteristics of our day, and for that...

  26. Key Resources
    (pp. 221-222)
  27. Index
    (pp. 223-228)