Interview: Alien Trespass Director R.W. Goodwin
by Kevin Powers
April 4, 2009
One of the more unique films in theaters this weekend is a small, flavorful one called Alien Trespass, directed by R.W. Goodwin. Goodwin is readily associated with "The X-Files," considering he brought audiences more than 100 of TV series' early episodes (as producer and occasional director). Now, however, Goodwin may be better known for achieving the lofty goal of making an authentic 1957 in 2009. Unlike what you might read from the poster, Alien Trespass isn't a spoof or homage to sci-fi films of old. By all accounts, the film is a product of that time, and according to Goodwin he "just happened to make it a little bit later."
The quirky film follows, in fantastic detail and style, an alien spaceship landing in the Mojave Desert. Its pilot, Urp, discovers that the Ghota - a one-eyed monster full of malcontent and a ravenous appetite - which was also aboard the ship, has escaped. The only way to save Earth's civilization is for Urp to inhabit a human's body and track down the Ghota before it's too late. As you can imagine, when Goodwin stopped in D.C. recently, I was dying to know how this film and it's special formula came about.
The Original Idea
"Jim (James Swift) just always had this idea. I think he first got the idea like 20 or so years ago. Eventually he started acting on it. He wrote an outline and had some scripts written. But it just wasn't working. So he approached me to see if I was interested."
"One of the scripts was written by Stephen Fischer. For this movie, we needed about a 90-page script, and we had about 260 pages. But the dialogue was good, and the characters were pretty good. So I decided to work with Stephen."
"It was intriguing, because I like those old movies. The great part that I loved about them is that they still work just as I remember them as a kid. What's great about them is that they're all so funny, because they're all so out-of-date. And when they made them, they were dead serious. I just figured if you did it right, we could make an intentionally out-of-date film that was really funny. The more we did it, the more it worked out and the more fun I had. The three of us worked for over a year on the script, and then we got it to where we really liked it, and then we hired a casting director."
Casting the Lead Ted / Urp
"The casting director gave us this list of 50 people for Ted. So there's Ted. And then there's the alien Urp. And when Urp inhabits Ted's body, we called that character Turp. So I needed someone who could play Ted and Turp. And she got us some incredibly great names… some of the best actors you could think of. So I told her, let's just pick our top choice, and it was Eric McCormack. He read it and just got it, and wanted to do it. And it was one of those things where was doing a mini-series, and was about to do his pilot for 'Trust Me,' so he had a little window of time. So it was just like, bam!, we had a minute to start it. It was incredibly fast prep and very fast shoot."
Tone and Style
"It's not easy. I knew what I wanted. I did not want it to be a spoof. I did not want it to be a parody. I was not trying to emulate bad sci-fi, I was taking the best of them. We used as our three main inspirations, War of the Worlds, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and It Came from Outer Space. And so I made sure that everyone saw at least those three. I'm not talking just cast. Everyone had to look at these things, because then everyone would know that we're living in 1957."
"The art department had a ball with it. And the sets are so authentic. What I was trying to emulate in terms of the physical look of the shot was War of the Worlds, because that was a big studio production… great 50's color."
"The tone is on a razor's edge, because if you push it too hard and try to make it funny, it wouldn't be funny. And you didn't want it to go flat. You had to kind of keep it where it was. The hardest part in terms of acting was Turp, but Eric McCormack is an amazing actor. It's so easy to try and push that character."
"As for the monster, Ghota, we knew it had to be made out of rubber. It's about 7 foot tall. And it is a bit phallic. It's based roughly on the same monster in It Came from Outer Space. I think they realized they had the same problem. In the '50s you had be careful of all that symbolism; so they stuck all this asparagus or something all over it."
Remakes In General
"You know, in general, I have a very strong opinion, and I hate remakes. I think it's a mistake to try and remake something that's very much a classic. That's one of the reasons I love the idea of this film and what we did with it. It wasn't a remake. It was an original 1957 movie. We just happen to make a little bit later."
"We don't really have a demographic. We've tested it and screened it all over --10 years old to 90. Not everyone in all those age groups, obviously. Sci-fi fans are big for us. Nostalgia freaks are big us. Film buffs, too."
"But we had one of the early screenings in LA. It was when we were looking for a distributor. In a couple of those screenings we filled the theater with a lot of people from car clubs. And so after one of the screenings, this guy comes up and says, 'You know, we have a car club and once year we have a drive-in and we thought this would be the perfect movie for that.' And then he says, 'We're also a gay car club, so we love Eric.' So here we got two separate groups right there. So we're really big with gay car clubs."
The X-Files Film
"To be honest with you, I didn't see it; mainly because I haven't seen anything for a while. I have been eating and sleeping and breathing this film. It's amazing how much it absorbs you. But also, I have to be honest about the 'X-Files'… I did the first 5 seasons and we shot in Vancouver. It was like a family. And when it all split up that year [when the studio moved production to LA], I was emotional. It's like when I have a girlfriend and we split up, that was it. I had to cut myself off from it. So I never really much saw the 'X-Files' after I worked on it."
"I have a pilot that I've already shot. And it's a couple of guys, they call themselves the Cody Rivers Show - a guy named Andrew Connor and Michael Mathieu. The best way I can describe is that it's Monty Python meets Moulin Rouge in the 21st century. It's song and dance and all kinds of crazy. It's basically designed for a half-hour cable show."
Look for my review of Alien Trespass sometime later this week. You can already see it in theaters now. And thanks to R.W. Goodwin and everyone at Roadside Attractions for making this interview possible!