Joe Fleishaker is best known to cult film fans as the star of such Troma movies as Troma's War, Terror Firmer, and Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger 4. He has also made numerous appearances on The Late Show with Dave Letterman, and is quite an accomplished photographer. Joe kindly aggreed to a Fulci Metal Jacket interview.
Joe Fleishaker with Roger Corman.
Joe, although you've been involved in a number of different areas of the arts/media, cult film fans know you as one of Troma's most prolific actors. How did you become involved with the Troma team?
Joe :
Blake :
In 1985 I did my first acting job ( 2 seconds on-screen in Woody Allen's Radio Days). After that, I had the mistaken notion that I could get more acting work in mainstream films. That was not the case, so while looking for roles I came upon an ad from Troma that said 'chance to be a star and be seen by millions'. As it turned out it was only thousands, but responding to that ad got me seen by Troma.
Blake :
Citizen Toxie : The Toxic Avenger 4 has been doing extremely well at the U.S. box office, and is expected to have continued success on video/dvd. What are your thoughts on the finished product?
Joe :
I think Citizen Toxie was an attempt to return to the type of movie that made the original so great. Parts 2 & 3 really didn't cut it.... they disappointed many fans. Citizen Toxie succeeds where many other movies fail in combining a bizarre plot with parts and cameos for many of the Troma characters of the past.
I just realised I used the word 'plot' in the previous sentence. I hope that doesn't confuse anybody, but there really was one that introduced such fascinating characters like The Noxious Offender and Evil Kabukiman. The acting talent in this movie is a big cut above many of the earlier films, but not because Troma is spending more money, or because they are getting better at judging talent. It is because so many people (including talented people) have realised how much fun it would be to be in a Troma film, and have come running when Troma put out a casting call.
Although Troma movies can often be of questionable quality and taste, a lot of people (myself included) believe that Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz have always made an effort to include a lot of social commentary in their films. Would you agree? And if so, what would you regard as one of the more important messages ever to be woven into a Troma movie?
Joe :
I don't agree with the notion that Troma films are of questionable quality and taste, I believe that Troma films are of a known quality and taste and there are many among you who still enjoy them !!!
I also don't believe that there is any profound message in the films, I believe that the only message is that if we don't take ourselves or our entertainment too seriously we will discover that we are capable of enjoying ourselves without really trying. It doesn't cost a million dollars to make someone laugh, and you don't have to be famous to have talent.
Blake :
What are some of your favorite cult films?
Joe :
I'm not a big cult film fan. It would be easy to say I like cult films like The Toxic Avenger, and Tromeo & Juliet, but that would be cheating. I do like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Teenage Catgirls in Heat, and The Erotic Adventures of Zorro. But my all time favorite that I waited many years to get was The Wicker Man , with Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, and Ingrid Pitt (who I have gotten to know over the last few years). I still get a shiver up my spine when I watch the last few minutes of the movie.
The Troma Documentary Farts Of Darkness, which covered the making of Terror Firmer portrayed many of the cast and crew (including director Lloyd Kaufman) in a less than flattering light. But it was a refreshing change from the usual homogenised 'making-of' documentaries. Do you feel that the documentary accurately portrayed the frustrations you felt at the time, or were you a victim of unfair editing?
The footage they showed of my frustration was a gross misrepresentation, I was actually a lot more angry than it showed. I think the guy who edited the documentary didn't have the guts to show the full force of my fury. Of course, I was thrilled with the way my scenes turned out in the film, but as Lloyd would attest, had I not screamed and yelled as much as I did, my scenes might never have been filmed.
I was however very upset with the footage they showed of the problems I had after my death scene involving getting me cleaned up. Because they showed that footage and because of other innappropriate things they have done since then, my future involvement with Troma is now in doubt.
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