david j. moore Talks w/411 About New Book The Good, the Tough, and the Deadly
The B- Movie Interview: david j. moore
Freelance movie journalist david j. moore, the man responsible for the definitive post-apocalyptic movie reference book World Gone Wild: A Survivor’s Guide to Post-Apocalyptic Movies, has a new book out focusing on the action movie genre called The Good, the Tough, and the Deadly. It’s a must have book for action movie nerds (you can check out my review of the book here). The author extraordinaire, who has also had interviews and whatnot published in such publications as Fangoria, Phantom of the Movies Videoscope, and Filmfax, among many others, was nice enough to participate in an interview where he discusses the origin of The Good, the Tough, and the Deadly, the state of the action movie genre today, and more.
Bryan Kristopowitz:When did you conceive of the idea for The Good, the Tough, and the Deadly?
david j. moore: Honestly, I’ve always dreamed of writing something on this subject, but it wasn’t until I was almost finished with my first book World Gone Wild that I had the idea. I’d written reviews for stuff like Cyborg with Van Damme, The Terminator movies with Arnold, and lesser known things like Omega Cop with Ron Marchini, and Fist of Steel with Dale “Apollo” Cook, and there was a common denominator there that I noticed. I thought it would be great to write a book about those stars and all their peers. That’s when the idea really solidified, and then I just had to come up with rules about what an action star is, and once I had that figured out, it was a straight shot.
BK: Was it hard to convince your publisher that the idea of the book was worthwhile? As far as I know no one else has ever put together a book quite like The Good, the Tough, and the Deadly.
djm: Well, I think my first book World Gone Wild did okay for my publisher, and so they didn’t hesitate to get on board with this one. We had some disagreements about the subtitle of the book, but that’s a whole story in itself. One thing I really wanted the publisher to do was to hire an artist to paint an original piece of artwork for the cover. The artist – Keith Batcheller – used to paint posters for Cannon back in the day, so I knew he could do something cool for this. You’re right about there not being a book like this out there. That’s why I needed to write it! It’s crazy why no one had done it yet. If you’re gonna do something like this, you’ve really got to go all out. I don’t think anyone will ever quite write a book this extensive on this subject ever again. Wait till you see my next movie review book!
BK: How long did it take to get the book going?
djm: All said and done, this book took about two and a half years, I think. I had a deadline from the get-go, and so meeting that deadline was a major undertaking. That was one of the reasons why I needed to call on some friends to contribute reviews – I needed to share the burden if I was going to turn this book in on time. I probably only slept four hours a night for close to a year. I was so stressed out that I got shingles at one point. Crazy times. It’s almost a blur.
BK: How did you choose your contributors?
djm: I went to some friends and colleagues I’d already had a relationship with. I knew Vern and Zack Carlson from before, and I love their books on film. Vern is absolutely fighting the same battle that I’ve been fighting; we love direct-to-video action movies and have been trying to draw attention to some of the talent that goes into those films. Zack, same thing. Loved his book Destroy All Movies, and when that came out I was almost done with my book World Gone Wild, so when I compared the two I considered him a kindred spirit. I consider those guys friends. Mike McPadden I didn’t know at first, but when my book World Gone Wild came out, Mike’s book Heavy Metal Movies was released the same month, so every time I looked at my book on Amazon, his book was paired up with mine. I contacted him on Facebook, suggested we have a phone conversation, and from that I got a good feeling from him. Corey Danna, who wrote a heck of a lot of reviews for this book, I met online and he was probably my greatest asset to getting the book done on time. We became good friends over the course of two years and he was the perfect guy to be my voice of reason while the book came together. Everyone else who contributed were friends and guys who understood what I was trying to do.
BK: The book is full of interviews with actors, directors, and writers well known in the action genre. How did those come about?
djm: A book like this has to have interviews. It wouldn’t feel right without them. As a journalist, I’m really confident and capable in tracking people down for interviews, so each interview I did came about in a slightly similar way. Luckily, in the action and martial arts community everyone seems to know everyone else, so if I made a good impression I would be referred to someone else, and sometimes one interview would lead to two or three or more interviews down the line. The interviews for this book were easily the most fun I had working on the whole thing. I chose people I wanted to talk to, and I also tried to get many more, but as these things go, you don’t always get everyone on your list. Then again, there were lots of surprises like Wesley Snipes, for example. I was doing press at San Diego Comic Con last year and he was doing some interviews for his show The Player. I got him for a few minutes, which was great.
BK: Which interview subject surprised you the most?
djm: Well, each interview had its surprises, but what surprised me about many of these people is that they were so generous with me. James Lew invited me to his house and he made me spaghetti for lunch! Marc Dacascos bought my wife and I a huge breakfast before our interview! Scott Adkins invited me to Thailand to visit the set of Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear! Isaac Florentine was also extremely generous with me, inviting me into his home and buying me lunch and then loaning me his personal assistant while I was in Thailand to show me around the sites for a day! I could go on and on. There’s a lot of honor and integrity in the martial arts community. I got to see that and experience it while I hung out with these people.
BK: Why has the low budget action movie fallen out of favor with studios and general audiences, or has it fallen out of favor?
djm: As soon as they started putting muscles on the suits of superheroes and when guys like Matt Damon and Liam Neeson started doing these action films where quick cutting and stunt doubles were doing a lot of the hard work, that’s when there was a shift in the market. The Matrix was huge too. If you can get Keanu Reeves to flip around and learn kung fu in five seconds, then why do you need guys who spend their whole lives training and can’t really act? It was a very crucial moment when Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Legionnaire and Steven Seagal’s The Patriot went directly to video in 1998 or 1999. That was also the dawn of DVD. Lots of factors at work there.
BK: Do you think we’ll ever see a return of the kind of low budget action movie that makes up the bulk of The Good, the Tough, and the Deadly?
djm: Honestly, no. There’re still guys like Scott Adkins and Michael Jai White doing direct-to-video movies, but when even Millennium has all but stopped making those films, then you know you’re in trouble. I know some martial artists who are out there shooting stuff on cheap, inexpensive cameras that you can buy at Best Buy. It’s also almost impossible for these low budget “B” movies to make money when everybody’s neighbor is illegally downloading stuff for free. I always pay for what I watch, and if anyone complains that they don’t make enough of these movies, then it’s probably because they’ve contributed to their downfall. Show your support by buying DVDs and blu rays and by paying for your rentals. The next time Jason Statham or Stallone or Schwarzenegger has a theatrical release, go pay to see it.
BK: Do you think streaming services that produce their own original content, like Netflix, will ever get in on the low budget action movie game?
djm: The streaming service Crackle did an original movie called Extraction with John Foo. That was the very first movie Crackle produced and it wasn’t bad. That’s just one example, so there’s hope. Netflix is doing a good job with Daredevil, which is keeping stunt guys and martial artists and fight coordinators in business, but I’m not seeing any action stars in it. You never know. What if they brought The Expendables to Netflix as a series? I bet you they’d get a whole bunch of new subscribers overnight.
BK: Do you have a favorite action movie? Favorite actor? Director?
djm: I like so many of these people. When I was a kid, I loved Michael Dudikoff and the dude from Gymkata, but as I got older I began to really appreciate Jean-Claude Van Damme. Van Damme got so much more fascinating as he got older. When he did Wake of Death and The Hard Corps I really started paying attention to him. I don’t know if I have a favorite film in this genre. I love the American Ninja movies. I love Gymkata. I could probably tell you what my favorite movie is starring every action star I wrote about in the book, though. Director? I get excited when Isaac Florentine and Jesse Johnson make new movies. Some names of filmmakers, when I hear they’re doing a new movie my ears perk up. Ernie Barbarash is another one.
BK: Who do you see emerging as the future of the action genre in terms of actors and or directors? Where do you think the action genre as a whole is headed?
djm: The action genre will never go away. That said, I don’t know if there’s much of a future for up-and-comers who have yet to make their breakthrough in the business. The Steven Seagals, the Jackie Chans, and the Jeff Speakmans are pretty much a thing of the past. We’re not going to see some new guy or gal come in from the woodwork that a studio is going to build a movie around. It’s just not going to happen on the same scale the way it used to be done. Haywire with Gina Carano was a fluke in that it was made by Steven Soderbergh at the time it was made. I don’t think we’re gonna get something like that again for who knows how long. There’s hope with Ronda Rousey, though. I hope she hits her next film right out of the park. Iko Uwais from The Raid might have a future, but again, I just don’t see him headlining big films outside of his native country. I’ve been trying to tell the world about Scott Adkins and Michael Jai White, but they’re pretty well established already in the “B” world. It was exciting when WWE would do big theatrical releases starring their in-house stars, but now their releases are so small that they’re virtually direct-to-video movies, and we’re lucky if one of their “superstars” gets to star in a handful of films. Back in the day, those dudes would have been starring in three or four movies every year, but not these days. As far as directors, Gareth Evans is like the James Cameron of martial arts movies. We need another Steven Soderbergh-type guy to come in and do something really interesting with a screen untested fighter or martial artist.
BK: How did you become a professional film journalist? Was it a life goal or was it something that just sort of happened?
djm: It was a total accident, but in hindsight, there are no accidents. For whatever reason I have extraordinarily good favor and I always end up meeting exactly the right people at exactly the right time. Some years back I met a guy standing in line at the movies in Hollywood. I heard him talking with a buddy of mine … turns out this guy wrote for Fangoria, and that was an important moment in my life when I realized that if this guy was somehow going out there and doing interviews and visiting movie sets, writing articles for a living, then I could do that too if I tried hard enough. Movie journalism is fun, but it’s a heck of a lot of work as a freelance guy. I’ve gotten this far by extremely hard work, utmost professionalism, and really good luck. I still wouldn’t advise anyone else do it, though, because it’s almost impossible to make a living at it. Write books instead.
BK: Why is it “david j. moore”?
djm: When I was in high school, I probably wrote my name two thousand times, practicing my signature. I was sure that I would be a famous writer someday. I signed my name over and over, trying out different signatures and styles, filling up notebooks. Then, when I would write type my name in print, I always wrote in big, capital letters BY DAVID JONATHAN MOORE. After awhile I realized how conceited I was, and I took a note from the way Andy Griffith used to have his billing on the T.V. series Matlock: He’d get a lowercase billing, which I thought was cool. So to downplay my role in my own starring film – my life – I will forever bill myself in lowercase letters. It’s penance for having such a big head when I was younger. You’re the first person to directly ask me this question.
Thanks to david j. moore for the time and to Kady Moore for the images.