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That Bri’s Such a Scuz!:
Interview with The Return of the Living Dead’s Brian Peck

You hold the dubious honor of being the only actor in all three ROTLDs and will likely show up in a fourth. How did you get involved with each?

Good question! Well, number one I got involved in it because I auditioned for it. I found out about it because a really good friend of mine had been going in for the part of Tina - Kimmie Robertson. She and I were in Last American Virgin. She was also Lucy on Twin Peaks. She was the one who loaned me the script, just because she knew I would love it. Two came about because through working on the first I became friends with Kenny Myers, who did all the makeup. He was the one who came up with the special zombie roles that it wasn’t necessary to cast literally a different actor for every part. So the same person could play multiple zombie parts. Kenny was big on getting actors who have previous experience with prosthetics. Cause I was the ant farm zombie in part one. (Webmaster note: The ant farm zombie is the zombie seen crawling up from the ground like a cross-section, when Casey asks the punks in Suicide’s car "You hear something?")

What zombies were you in two?

I am the one in the graveyard that creeps up on [actress] Marsha Dietlein that she punches in the face and the green slime comes out. I am the one on the car. I am the one that gets my jaw ripped off. I am the Michael Jackson zombie near the end.

The most famous of all…

Yeah that was my idea. Everyone thought [director] Ken Wiederhorn was…well, I wil lbe politically correct. Nobody was really impressed with him. We were sort of skeptical about what he was putting on film. When they didn’t have specific parts for us, they’d bring us in on days when they weren’t having any special zombies and they’d bring us in with the $40 a day extras. It was near the end of the shoot and we were all burnt out. On eof the extras that was arriving was wearing this silly Thriller jacket. I came up to him and I begged him, ‘May I pleeease borrow your jacket? I will give it back to you at the end of the day.’ And he was ‘yeah I dun care…’ So I went to the makeup effects trailer and said, ‘you guys..I know what I need to be tonight as a zombie!’ They were like what? I pulled the jacket out from around my back and they immediately started laughing and Kenny was like, "oh my god, we’re doing it!" Karen (Kenny’s wife) who was the head of the hair dept. put endless pin curls in my hair and sprayed it all black. Then I went to the wardrobe dept. and said, I need black slacks and loafers. I made them hem the pants so that they’re too short. By the way, there’s one zombie that gets its electrocuted and its eye pops out, that’s me. So yeah I stepped out on the set with the Michael Jackson thing and Ken Wiederhorn took one look at me and said no way, absolutely not. So what you see me do is the ONLY film that was rolled on me the whole night. He wouldn’t let me in the entire shot. And if you notice, I run into the shot…hit a mark and then get electrocuted. Ken so much didn’t want me in the shot. They used the part where I run in. So I ran in, spun and fell over. Everyone thought it was hysterical. The irony is everyone remembers that ONE scene…

Three came out through John Penney. He was the assistant editor on ROTLD. We had some mutual friends at USC. He got in touch with me and told me he had written part 3. He said you got to be in it somewhere. I said, I’d love to. He set it up and I came into the production office and I met Brian Yuzna. That was it. Everyday on the call sheet they’d have a trivia question. One of the days I worked they asked who was the one actor that’s been in all three films? And I was the answer.

You are seen in the beginning…

Yeah I walk in for one brief moment, I’ve got a gas mask on my head and the second I walk in I pull it over my face. I could have been anyone. I am the one that shot the zombie in the forehead.

Were you a horror buff before ROTLD?

Oh yeah. From the time I was a little kid I used to watch the Universal movies on Tv. I built every single Aurora model they made. My office in my house has every Don Post monster mask.

Do you like those new Sideshow Universal Monsters?

Oh yeah I have ‘em all. I am a big freak. I’m a big movie fan. I lean towards horror. Listen, I am 42 years old. I love to see good, classy movies. I’ve had little time to go to the movies. You wanna know the last two movies I’ve seen? Eight Legged Freaks which was entertaining and Halloween Resurrection which was terrible.

How do you think ROTLD compares with other zombie titles, like Romero’s?

It works out well. It’s a similar thing, they compliment each other very well. I was the guy who went and saw Dawn of the Dead at midnight multiple times. I always checked out George Romero and Tom Savini movies. I met George actually in Toronto who was at a restaurant when he was filming up there a year or so ago. I was like "hey George, I was in a zombie movie…but you may not like the one I was in…" He was oh no I liked it!

You didn’t mention this before when you brought up John Penney and Part 3. We’ve discussed this before. You wrote a treatment for Part 3 before anyone really did and it was reviewed by producers. Why didn’t the producers go with it?

Kenny Myers and I wrote a treatment. A few years ago I yanked it out of a drawer and re-read it. I read it and was like it was pretty good. In some ways it was somewhat similar to the one they made, as far as the setting of the military base. But it got more into the origins of Trioxin and the conspiracy. I don’t know why they didn’t go with it. At the time, I didn’t have a clue what a pitch was. Kenny couldn’t go with me because he was working. I heard that the producers really liked the treatment. Kenny put a lot of things in the script that he would have loved to do effects wise.

Did you have a director in mind?

Kenny and I would have loved to. We didn’t think they’d let us (laughs) but we were certainly going to suggest it. So I went in by myself for what I thought was just a meeting. I didn’t understand the proverbial Hollywood pitch meeting. I didn’t know what you were supposed to do. Where you are supposed to act it out, tap dance, I don’t know…They were like tell us about it. I was like well…you all read it right? And they just looked at me, ‘So tell us about it’. I went over it with them and they were like, "yeah but tell us about it!" I had no idea I basically blew it.

Did you do any of the effects work behind the scenes?

Yes, I helped puppeteer the half lady and do her dialogue on the set which was later redubbed. I helped operate the split dog too. I was the one who got Tony Gardner to be in on the film so I got to work with him. I used to have a split dog too; one of the larger ones not the one that was on the floor.

You used to have some other props from ROTLD-what were they and where are they now?

I had some tombstones. I had a spare corpse in the barrel under the opening titles that they

Kenny made three of them and the first one worked well so he kept one and I got one. I traded it and the split dog them for some guy for furniture from Dr. Zaius’s office from Planet of the Apes. I still have the tombstones, but they’re nothing recognizable.

Nothing like the famous angel gravestone…

No. Actually Dan O’Bannon had that for a while but he gave that back to the guy who sculpted it.

Who do you still talk to from any of the ROTLD films?

Once or twice a year, James Karen.

What do you hear most from people who say they’ve seen the movie?

The thing I hear most? Anyone who knows me never knows that I was in it! I am thirty pounds heavier, I have dark brown hair, I have never ever ever been recognized from the movie. The thing I hear is "oh my god! That’s like one of my favorite movies!"

Where can someone get a hold of your film, THE WILLIES (1991) and how did you get to make that?

If you get a hold of The Willies, I’m sorry (laughs). They released it on laserdisc AND video but it’s long out of print. Couple of stores here both have it. It’s rentable.

I bring this up because ROTLD fans take note that Clu Gulager AND James Karen are both in it. How did that happen?

Jimmy has a substantial part, Clu makes a brief appearance. For a while him and his wife lived in a loft in downtown L.A. He was the only one I knew who had room to build a set in his warehouse and he was very kind to let me build a set there. We shot it on 16mm so it was kind of a home movie. It was 2 or 3 in the morning and Clu came wandering in to see what we were doing and he loved to pop in. We’re getting set up for a shot and I wanted to have an off-screen voice of this principal. But Clu popped in and I was like hey this could be on screen. I said Clu, you wanna be in the movie? He said ya sure. I said go put on a tie and a pair of slacks! Look like a principal. And he came back with glasses and tie.

What was funny was one day I was in a video store and heard this familiar dialogue in the background. They were actually playing The Willies on the TVs there. So I asked why they were playing it and the clerks were like, we watch it all the time. Whenever we put it on, people watch. They love it. And I was like, oh yeah I wrote and directed that movie. And they were wow! You’re serious?? Awesome! (laughs)

Why did you not attend the reunion at Creepcon?

I was excited about going but what happened was that I was acting coach for a movie that is coming out called "Holes", starring Sigourney Weaver and Patricia Arquette. They called me to work that weekend of Creepcon cause the kids were in school during the week and you know, were off on the weekend. But I was disappointed that I couldn’t go and be a "has-been". I was excited about going and being a dork.

When was the last time you watched any of the ROTLD films and how do you think they hold up?

I haven’t seen 2 or 3 in years but I watched 1 probably half a year ago. One of the actors on a Nickelodeon show I worked with heard about it, how good it was and that I was in it. So he came to my house and we ordered pizza and watched it.

How many extras played zombies in ROTLD - do you recall?

No idea. Probably 25 extras were out there during the 1st few weeks of shooting. We did all the location stuff first. And everyone either had mud on their face or had those crappy Bill Munns masks. It’s a shame that Kenny Myers wasn’t hired before him, since Bill Stout had such wonderful designs for different zombies.

Was the makeup by Bill Munns as bad as Dan says they were?

No - it was worse. No one liked the makeup he did. It wasn’t even like…real makeup. The masks he made were unfilmable. Put it this way: your average junior high reader of Fangoria can do better - 1000 times better. You know what they were like? They were as thin as rubber gloves, painted brown, with eyeholes cut out. Munns wanted to put a bald cap and attach hair to it to make a mohawk. I was like, no shave my head and give me a real mohawk!

Scuz was into comic books, not brushing his teeth, checking out graveyards…but what are some of your hobbies/interests besides films and acting?

Hobbies…hmmm working on my house. Right now I am trying to turn a room into an office. But I still collect Planet of the Apes crap. But good crap. Props. Costumes. I just picked up a mask from a friend named Dana Gould. If you come to my house, you’ll see I have a POTA museum.

Scuz loved The Damned, The Flesheaters and the like. But what’s the real Scuz listening to these days?
Oh I have very weird nostalgic taste in music. I listen to Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra…movie music…I love lounge stuff. I still have all my records from childhood. About as current as I go is ‘70s. But I love soundtracks. I went to see Danny Elfman scoring Red Dragon at the studio. I can tell you it looks way better than Hannibal. That movie is gonna be incredible.

What memorabilia did you pick up or hold onto?
I went into the art department and made photocopies of the storyboards because they were beautiful. I still have them. The scene of me getting bit by the half lady seen from the outside, remember that? Well, that was an insert shot that we had to do after the film was made. They needed that one shot there in the print. So Bill Stout was preparing a storyboard for that. And one day I strolled in and Bill looked up and said "I was just about to draw you! Pose for me!" nd he signed it and I still have it.

What do you think of the work print?

I haven’t seen it for years. I remember Mark Venturini borrowed it and never gave it back. The one thing I remember about it is that I was in it more in the graveyard.

I will make you a copy. What did you think the first time you saw the movie in the theater?

I don’t think they’re terrible but never as good as part one. The first one is so balanced between being funny and scary and gross. Part 2 it’s like they didn’t get it. They couldn’t do it. They went so obviously for the jokes.

Maybe it looked better on paper…
I think so. I didn’t see the script but I think I could have imagined it to look better than what Wiederhorn shot. Part 3 I didn’t see the script. It was fine but it didn’t feel like a ROTLD movie. It was different. Part 2, even with its jokes, felt more like a sequel.

Do you think ROTLD should be remade or retold?

No on the remake. I have no problem with them making 14 sequels.

Thanks, Scuz (I mean Bri).
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