Interview with Zach Galligan
If you grew up in the 1980s and 90s the Gremlin movies were must see films - stone cold classics directed by Joe Dante and produced by Steven Spielberg - So the opportunity to interview lead actor Zach Galligan during the “ For Love Of The 80s” convention was a brilliant opportunity that I couldn't pass up.
When did you decide that acting was the career path you wanted to go down?
I got plucked out of my school plays and a casting director suggested that I go professional, so I took her advice.
How did the part of Billy Peltzer in Gremlins come about?
It was just a basic audition that I just happened to land. It was one of those lucky breaks. There was nothing really special about it.
Gremlins director Joe Dante, and several other cast members, came from the Roger Corman stable of movies - were you a fan of this type of film before this?
Yeah I saw Humanoids from the Deep - that was one, Piranha, Eat My Dust and Death Race 2000 - which I saw when I was eleven.
What was the most challenging aspects of Gremlins production for you?
Probably being alone by myself for four months in California when A) I'd never lived by myself or B) west of the Mississippi. So I was three thousand miles away from my family, doing all this by myself - that was pretty challenging.
Can you talk about your experience of working with Hoyt Axton in Gremlins?
Working with Hoyt (Billy's inventor father) was great, he really taught me a lot because he was so natural. I remember the first day that I was watching him I was like “Wow! I don't know if this guy's any good. It's like he's not doing anything. It's just like he's existing” and I went “Wait! maybe that's the point” maybe that's how you should do it and, on that day, I shifted my acting style a little bit. What he was doing was so effortless and I felt what I was doing was effort-ful, I thought effortless was probably better in the long run.
When you read the script did you have any inclination that Gremlins would be a hit?
I knew that it would be a hit right away because Spielberg was involved and, as the follow up movie to ET, even if it did a tenth of the business of that film, I knew it was going to be a hit.
Gremlins was released on the same day as Ghostbusters. Do you know if Joe Dante and the studio were worried about this? and out of the two Gremlins movies which do you prefer?
I think they were concerned because it was the same audience but neither one - Gremlins didn't expect to be big and Ghostbusters didn't expect to be big - they were like “let's see how it goes”. For me the first movie is a much better blend horror and comedy.
Can you talk about your experience of working with the late Sir Christopher Lee on Gremlins 2 and fellow Brit Malcolm McDowell on Cyborg 3?
Christopher Lee was great. A perfect gentleman, as I like to say, who was a perfect “gentle man”. He was a total professional and one of my heroes - so that was a thrill.
The funny thing about Malcolm McDowell is I did that movie with him and we never met on the set because we shot on different days.
When I finally met him, for the first time, at Fan Expo in Canada, I was introduced to him and I said “Mr. McDowell we did a movie together but I never met you and I wanted to take the opportunity now.”
He goes “Oh really which one?”
I said “Cyborg 3: The Recycler.”
He just looked at me and said “Oh dear.”
I went “Do you remember it?”
He says “Oh yes all $75,000 of it” (he laughs).
Malcolm was full of all sorts of good jokes and a good sport.
Your first movie was 1984’s Nothing Lasts Forever with Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd - will this, hardly seen film, get a home entertainment release?
It really all depends on rights issues. The director used clips he didn't pay for, so I think when all of these right issues expire and they are not legally bound to pay - when it's less expensive - it will eventually see the light of day. Right now it's too much of a financial hit to release it.
You appeared in the Judge Reinhold/Nicolas Cage film Zandalee. Is it a movie you look back on with fond memories?
I had a good time with Nic. He was a very, very unpredictable person to work with, which, at first, frightened me and then, eventually, I found to be exciting because you never knew what he was going to do next; It’s what film acting is all about - trying to capture something spontaneous in the moment.
Have you seen Mandy yet?
Yeah I did. I loved it. I thought he was great in that.
As well as the Gremlins franchise you appeared in several Anthony Hickox directed movies how did your role in Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth come about?
I got my role in Hellraiser 3 because my friend Tony Hickox was directing it. I went to visit him for lunch and he said, “You're going to get murdered in this scene.”
I said “What are you talking about?”
Anthony said “Yeah, you are going to get impaled with a pool cue.” t
Then I said “I'm just here to have the beef bourguignon.”
He's like “No. You’re in the movie”
So he just threw me in. Tony did that a lot. He's a prankster. That's how come I'm in Warlock 2. I just went to have lunch with him again Tony said “Here's your lines.”
I learned not to go have lunch with him because I end up in small parts in his movies.
Are there any films or TV appearances that fans of yours should revisit?
I did a really good movie called Surviving. Unfortunately it's not available on DVD, only on a crap copy on YouTube. So you can see that but it's such bad quality. There's another movie I did called Psychic - it's not that amazing of a movie but I'm really proud of my work in it.
What do you look for when it comes to picking a project? And what do you have coming up in the future?
I look for anything that will make me excited about it - whether it be the script or the character. I did a Jason Mewes movie Madness in the Method and a movie called Preacher Six.