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Makin’ Lethal Gases…and Even More Lethal Sequels: Tom Fox, Producer

    Take note, these answers are by myself…Tom doesn’t do interviews unless there's financial gain involved. I know, I know, he’s been in what, three interviews you know of? Well, I respect Tom’s wishes but I actually do have some answers from prior correspondence. 

is he a horror buff-if so, what kinds of films?
I do know Tom is not into horror.

What led him to want to acquire the Return of the Living Dead title and property - was it due to the success of Romero's Dawn of the Dead (it grossed $50 million worldwide even though it was filmed for $1 million)?
I do know part of the reason was. He wanted to get into making movies and it seemed like a sure bet for a hit at the time. He had a meeting with Jack A(ss) Russo who wanted to direct. Russo's script was too similar to NOTLD so there was no interest in the script - it was the title Tom wanted. The co-writers didn't want Russo to make it, so Tom made an offer they didn't refuse.

Romero was asked to direct, produce, take part in the film. What happened and does Fox ever run into him?
Actually George never replied back to the offers. Tom Fox ran into him at an Anchor Bay party in 2000. George didn’t really remember who Tom was - but had never met him either.

What did Fox think of John Russo’s original novel or script?
The script Fox wanted to change as everyone agreed it basically read like a remake of the original Night. Never read the novel.

After reading it, how long was it before you knew for sure you wanted to use Dan O'Bannon’s script?
Immediately. Tobe Hooper originally was to write it but gave it over to Dan. Tom definitely didn’t want to step on George’s territory and had the name recognition in Dan he sought (the guy who brought you ALIEN, the guy who brought you TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE).

Was there anything he suggested or changed in the script or during filming?
Not really.

Insight why his name was replaced by "Antony Ginnane" as producer on the Hemdale Video of ROTLD?
Tom was not aware of this until I showed him one day. In fact he was not aware who Ginnane was/is. [He was a producer and director, worked on Razorback I know] He wondered if John Daly and Derek Gibson had Ginnane – who had nothing to do with the film – supervise the Hemdale Video project. Daly/Gibson obviously slighted Fox on purpose.

What is the most impressive thing about ROTLD to his  mind?
Tom has noted the usual: its pacing, its sense of humor, the cast chemistry with the three leads (and Mathews and Karen), the fact that it came out alright even with setbacks, and the twist on a tired subject (zombies).

What he  thinks of Romero’s "Dead" films or of the Italian Fulci pictures in comparison to ROTLD?
They were all pretty good to him. Although he has trouble remembering them for which one was which. He was not even aware that only NOTLD had a graveyard sequence.

Would he work with Dan again?
Fox wanted to but nothing materialized.

What did he think of Part 3 (which you had nothing to do with)?
Wasn’t happy with it. Then again, if his name had been attached, one has to wonder whether his feelings would be colored differently. Part 3 while very low budget, attempted to be serious. Maybe he didn't like that.

What are some merchandising ideas you would do when the ROTLD rights revert to you?
Originally I had proposed action figures, shirts, anything really as long as people still care or show fan support  but the popularity of this film has not drastically increased the way, say, Evil Dead films have. The figure companies (Sideshow, SOTA, McFarlane) have not jumped to grab the rights to the characters. At this time, it is doubtful anything of greatness will be created for this 20-something year old cult movie. 

What are the negative things (if any) he's heard about ROTLD particularly when it first came out?
Doesn’t recall anything memorable...

Opinions on Parts 1 and 2 and why do you think the first is so popular?
Most originals are more popular, but the blend of comedy and horror worked best on part one.

Did ROTLD 1 or 2’s box office surprise him?
Two was a surprise (it was not as successful). We’ve discussed the timing, production and handling of the sequel a few times but Tom is still happy with the way it turned out. Remember, he doesn’t take zombies as seriously as say, we fans, do! I still remind him, Part Two was a spoof of a spoof.

What does he own as far as ROTLD relics, memorabilia, etc.?
Posters, soundtrack LPs, the movie prints, storyboards, promo items, etc. (all American material). 

Who’s the biggest freak of these films he's ever met?
I’ll let you guess. Now it is not recommended that you send him anything to sign. Word is he has "lost" items before. If you do want to chance it, send something that is not rare or valuable. AND DO NOT SEND A SCRIPT by any means!! A) You will never get it back B) You will probably find parts of it on the small screen if they sequelize it again. This has happened to not only fans but cast members from part one. Expect to hear that he either didn't receive it or didn't read it. Don't believe either excuse and definitely copyright or register your work, and try to get some proof of correspondence (a phonebill, letter, email, etc).