I'm Joe Dante, one of a handful of directors to come up through the Roger Corman school of film making. If you don't know what that is, Google it (or I guess you could ask me.) I have a film I'd like to make about Roger actually....

I started (roughly) with PIRANHA and THE HOWLING, followed (in non chronological order) with both GREMLINS films, along with INNERSPACE and THE BURBS. In all, I've made something over 20 feature films.

My last film, THE HOLE 3D, is being released domestically in September, 2012. It won the first-ever Best 3D Award at the Venice Film Festival.

When I'm not trying to get movies made, I work on my site, Trailers From Hell (trailersfromhell.com). It's sort of a passion project -- hundreds of art house and grind house trailers that we comment on and educate people about. Stuff you've probably never heard of, but should! In fact, we currently have a Kickstarter campaign running until July 18th, trying to raise funds to get us to the 1000-trailer mark. Check out the campaign here: http://kck.st/O5SHDL

I'll be here from 1-4 PM PST answering your questions. So, go ahead. Ask me anything.

THANK YOU ALL for the questions! I wish I could answer more, but I need to go home and give my hands a rest. Maybe I can come back and answer more another day? Still new to this reddit thing... Joe Imgur

Comments: 1585 • Responses: 53  • Date: 

tfhguru1410 karma

your assistant Mark is obviously a badass. where did you find such a talented handsome individual?

Joe_Dante1244 karma

Mark, get out of this forum!

st3v3n983 karma

I don't have a question, just thank you for Small Soldiers.

Joe_Dante647 karma

Thanx--always nice to know someone's out there watching this stuff.

stanthrax432 karma

Hey Joe, when exactly does "After Midnight" end? I have this Gremlin that I'm pretty sure i'm starving every morning because I'm afraid to feed him before noon.

Joe_Dante525 karma

There's a scene in Gremlins 2 where the characters grapple with this conundrum. "It's always midnight somewhere!"

dpch318 karma

Gremlins 2 was awesome.

Joe_Dante426 karma

You are obviously a person with good taste.

therealandrew275 karma

Will we see Gizmo on the big screen again any time soon?

Joe_Dante287 karma

Dunno, nobody seems to be knocking down doors at WB to make another one.

DiegoStorm196 karma

What was the inspiration for the tune that Gizmo whistles in the Gremlins films?

Joe_Dante270 karma

Jerry Goldsmith came up with the tune, and it was sung by a young girl non-pro who was a member of his synagogue.

SongAndWind182 karma

Not a question, but I wanted to let you know I slept with the lights on in my room for about a week after first seeing Gremlins.

Joe_Dante368 karma

Hitchcock told the story about the mom who complained her daughter wouldn't take a shower after seeing PSYCHO. "Send her to the dry cleaners," he said.

ethanwc171 karma

Thanks for adding spice to my childhood being scared to death of those puppets. I think I was 6 when Gremlins was released on VHS.

What do you think of Hollywood today, mostly making prequels/sequels instead of new original content?

Joe_Dante329 karma

It's too bad really--there are very few mid-level movies now. They're either all super-expensive blockbusters or really cheap Paranormal types. And as for originality--Robocop? Spider Man? Do we really need new versions of these??

RealityIsMyReligion149 karma

What are your thoughts on the abomination know as the Furby?

Joe_Dante309 karma

Believe it or not, I alerted Warners to the similarities between Gizmo and the Furby--and lo and behold, soon there was an actual Gizmo Furby!

2th134 karma

Of the new Gremlins (from Gremlins 2) which was your favorite one? Please say the transexual gremlin. That thing was funny as hell.

Joe_Dante421 karma

We call them LGBT Gremlins today. Actually, that one was simply referred to as Girl Gremlin on the set.

[deleted]126 karma


Joe_Dante203 karma

I used to, when I was UP after midnight!

kiwipops118 karma

If you directed a remake of Gremlins and would you choose to make the gremlins using Computer Generated Imaging(CGI) or would you use puppets again?

Joe_Dante300 karma

I'd certainly lean toward puppets because there's nothing like having the monsters on the set with the actors, but I'd be foolish to say I'd reject all CGI, because there's a place for it. I'm sure there have been major advances in puppeteering since 1990!

JohnnyFootballHero114 karma

Between Gremlins and Piranha, you've made a lot of kids wet their beds in fright (including me). Do you own stock in plastic sheets?

Joe_Dante212 karma

Wetting piranhas is bad enough, but never wet a Gremlin after midnight!

levilarrington91 karma

Also, what was Spielberg like?

Joe_Dante149 karma

He was (and still is, I suppose) Very Supportive. Without him the release version of Gremlins would have looked Very Different!

atropos7790 karma

I'm one o' the pledgers to your Kickstarter campaign, Joe. Trailers from Hell is a great site and I appreciate those in the industry who work hard to teach film as an art form.

As much as I love GREMLINS, my favorite film of yours might be THE 'BURBS, which I count as one of the funniest '80s movies out there. Was there ever any talk of revisiting that world? And do you, like me, sometimes wish that Tom Hanks would revisit his comedy roots?

Thanks Joe.

Joe_Dante96 karma

You mean a sequel? A remake? Looks to me like the upcoming movie THE WATCH has a lot in common with THE BURBS!

[deleted]76 karma

Hi, thank you for doing the AMA, There are a lot of Gremlins fans here!

When did you realize that Gremlins was going to be such a cult classic film?

Joe_Dante116 karma

Everybody was amazed at the explosive reactions it got at the first preview. Including me! Then when it went on to play through the summer and into the fall it became obvious it wasn't going to fade into obscurity (like my next picture did).

theroymccoy71 karma

How much for the original Gizmo puppet? How about with that little car he was driving in?

What were Martin Short and Dennis Quad like on Innerspace?

I totally loved those movies btw, you rock.

Joe_Dante79 karma

I'm afraid the original Gizmo puppet is moulting away in the Old Puppets Home. Marty and Dennis were a blast--even though they were only seen together at the very end, they both were always on-set, liberally improvising dialog.

TreephantBOA68 karma

The Howling was way ahead of the flock and one of my all time favorite movies. Gritty and great special effects. In that year American Werewolf came out as well as the Albert Finney movie with wolves. My question... Did you feel ripped off? The follow ups to the Howling didn't have the passion and I haven't seen a decent werewolf movie since that year.

Joe_Dante175 karma

How could the maker of PIRANHA ever feel ripped off??

kbapmu66 karma

What was young River Phoenix like during "The Explorers"?

Joe_Dante153 karma

River was a talented, handsome kid. We originally wanted him for the underprivileged kid, but when we found Jason Presson we shifted River to the nerdy scientist part. He hated the costume and would whip off the eyeglasses whenever a cute girl was around. I got to know all three kids pretty well on that film, and we all miss River. What a career --and life-- he could have had.

diogenesl55 karma

What's your opinion regarding this new trend, coming with The Hobbit, for 48 fps movies?

Joe_Dante83 karma

Haven't experienced it yet, but it sounds a lot like Showscan, Doug Trumbull's attempt to introduce a new format. Problem was that at first it was arresting but then you got used to it. Doug tried to compensate by making BRAINSTORM, which was supposed to alternate between regular 35mm and Showscan, but it was never finished in Showscan. There's a lot of expensive retrofitting that has to take place for 48 fps to catch on--I doubt there's that much excitement for it at the moment.

A-punk48 karma

Did you ever take any of the Gremlins props and leave them in childrens closets?

Joe_Dante89 karma

No, but I remember thinking how odd it was that they marketed a Stripe plush toy in 1984--just the thing you want in the crib next to Baby!

losferwords45 karma

Was it hard to keep all of the Gremlins from wrecking the set between takes?

Joe_Dante87 karma

Oddly enough they were pretty well-behaved. But that Gizmo! What a terror! You can see hum treating everyone like crap in the making-of short on the Gremlins 2 dvd.

scientist_tz43 karma

The Burbs was dark as fuck; I think that movie held up really well. Great cast in that one. I actually think I liked it better then Gremlins.

Joe_Dante35 karma

Your privilege sir.

bobdole332035 karma

What was your favorite thing about directing Innerspace? I loved that movie as a kid and it must have been great to work with Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan and Martin Short on such a rediculous film.

Joe_Dante55 karma

It was one of the most fun experiences I ever had making a movie, largely because ILM was on top of the (Oscar winning) fx and the cast was so funny and clever. Doing the forced perpective midgets-in-the-car scene was a riot. I wish I could relive it.

mttwldngr35 karma

What is the best way to "break" into the industry? Write a script? Write a spec script? Write a treatment? Write a novel in the extremely rare chance it will someday be adapted into a movie?

Joe_Dante90 karma

There's actually not much of an industry left to break into. You can do all those things, but the business model Hollywood is founded on is disintegrating. No one knows exactkly what will replace it. Interesting times, but kinda scary too.

levilarrington28 karma

As a kid, I felt the Dune coloring books were better than the Gremlins coloring books - did you have any say in them?

Joe_Dante121 karma

The director generally doesn't get much control over the coloring books. I'll try and work it into my next contract.

kingzilch28 karma

Big fan, Joe - you were a big influence on my adolescence. Take that how you will :)

I get envious whenever I read about the Roger Corman "school" and all the greats who got their start that way. To your mind, is there a comparable method of breaking in, in terms of low-budget filmmaking with a relatively high degree of creative freedom?

Joe_Dante53 karma

I don't really think there's a modern equivalent...we operated like a film school, only the finished product already had been booked in 75 to 1000 drive-in theaters and grindhouses. And provided we hit all the exploitation buttons economically, we were afforded a lot of creative freedom. I think today you have to form your own "studio" and shoot and edit your own material. Today almost anyone can make a film; it's getting it seen that's the problem.

kotooni28 karma

I just wanted to say I am a big fan of Gremlins! Thanks for directing a great movie!

Also, how excited are you for the Dark Knight Rises? (I heard you are a huge batman fan)

Joe_Dante62 karma

I was actually at one point going to make Batman as my first picture after Gremlins! I'm expecting DKR to be the superhero movie that justifies all the others. Remember, I grew up in a period when superhero pix were aimed at the tiny tot Saturday matinee serial market. How things have changed!

diogenesl24 karma

How do you see the future for 3D? How did you prepared for shooting your first 3D movie?

Joe_Dante60 karma

By watching lotsa 3D movies when I was a kid, and through the years. I did a 3D ride film called HAUNTED LIGHTHOUSE for Busch Gardens/Sea World a few years ago, but of course by now that format is obsolete. 3-D will stick around unless they keep overcharging and presenting it badly.

NinjaDiscoJesus22 karma

what film do you want to make about Roger?

Joe_Dante39 karma

I have a good, funny script about him shooting THE TRIP, which I came dangerously close to making with Colin Firth a few years ago. It'd still be fun to do.

mayodefender19 karma

Who was hardest to work with on set?

Joe_Dante65 karma

Gizmo! Hands down! I know, I know, he says bad things about me, too...

amazingmikeyc19 karma

Is Dick Miller as awesome as he seems?

Joe_Dante32 karma


Estamio217 karma

Famous Monsters magazine is credited with wetting your appetite, where on the WEB do you go for chills?

Joe_Dante34 karma

There are a lot of good sites like Dread Central, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria, Shock Til You Drop, etc. If you like comedy with your horror, you might try Scared Silly, which deals with funny chillers and comedy teams that meet up with monsters.

buh2001j17 karma

How much of 'Looney Tunes: Back in Action' was micromanaged by Warner Bros? Was it a difficult process to write for characters that are worth a lot in merchandising and therefore limited in what they can say and do? How much of the movie is what you had hoped it would be? Do you feel today's animators can hope to compare to the Termite Terrace crews?

I watched all of 'The Movie Orgy' at the New Beverly the 2nd time you showed it where you found a couple more reels of it. If I had known it was going to be as good as it was I would've invited a lot more people. Any chance you'll show it again?

Why hasn't 'Hellzapoppin' ever been released on video/dvd/blu ray? Has anyone ever approached you to endorse a release like Quentin Tarantino does?

What were the major differences toward your intended vision of 'The Phantom' and the version that was made?

Have you ever seen 'Piranha 2'? What were your thoughts? What are your thoughts on modern horror movies?

Joe_Dante36 karma

That's a LOTTA questions! How much: All of it! The beginning, middle and end were not in the script I signed on for. Movie Orgy: Yes, it may show again at the New Bev within the year. Hellzapoppin': Due to a rights problem, it can't be legally shown in the US. You can get it from Canada and the UK. Endorse: nope Phantom: Same basic script, only my take was funny. Piranha 2: Jim invited me to an early screening. I told him his stuff with the actors was good, but as you know it was taken away from him. Modern horror: Too much explanation, not enough mystery. I liked CABIN FEVER and ATTACK THE BLOCK tho.

Joe_Dante73 karma


javert0117 karma

Hi Joe, I absolutely love the Gremlins movies, especially how the tone is completely different between the two films. If you could make a Gremlins 3, would you and where do you think you would take it?

Joe_Dante33 karma

Well, a lot more stuff has happened since Gremlins 2 than had between that at Gremlins 1. So I guess I'd take advantage of our modern society, warts and all. And there are planty of those.

kpatterson1420613 karma

Your movie was responsible for ruining my childhood dreams (literally, the things that happened in my head while I slept)

How could you?!

Joe_Dante51 karma

They let me. So I did.

jjaa13 karma

Come on Joe, the questions are piling up! Any chance of a "reboot" - I'd think there are plenty of adult fans nostalgic for Gremlins and it could thrive with many new ones. And...could you live off the royalties from the original movies?

Joe_Dante39 karma

When I made the first Gremlins I was pretty new, so my deal wasn't the kind you make big royalties on. I had a better deal on the sequel, but that one didn't do nearky as well financially. Sooner or later there will be a Gremlins reboot, but they're in no way obligated to involve me.

Cannibalzz13 karma

The ending of The Howling 3: Marsupials was VERY similar to the ending of The Howling... did you notice that? Did you feel like you were getting ripped off?

Joe_Dante28 karma

Not really--I was too transfixed by the kangaroos.

amazingmikeyc12 karma

Did you ever meet/work with any of the other famous Corman-graduates, like Coppolla, Scorsese, or James Cameron?

PS: your films are great!

PPS: Eerie Indiana! I used to love that!!

Joe_Dante20 karma

Work, no, but I did meet Coppola at a film junket in the Bahamas and after I'd regaled him with my adventures trying to watch DEMENTIA 13 in a raucus Philly grindhouse he let me sit in non a bunch of his interviews until the studio flack found out and threw me out. I've also met Marty and Jim over the years.

Daggerskull10 karma

You scared the crap out of me when I was 10 years old. I thought Gremlins would okay for kids. You bastard!

I'm okay with it, though. Thanks for the great movies.

Question time: How does it feel to be partially responsible for the creation of the PG-13 rating? (wiki says Gremlins and Indy Temple of Doom were heavy influences on the rating creation) And do you think today's directors are limited on their visions because the studios prefer to release PG-13 movies over R rated ones?

Joe_Dante18 karma

The rating system, although it abolished state-by-state censorship, resulted in the recutting of an astonishing number of movies--and now more than ever to qualify for the lucrative PG-13. There's no getting around the system--even though most movies are seen on cable tv, where the MPAA ratings don't count. Go figure.

Kevers8610 karma

I loved Masters of Horror and was surprised it didn't come back for a third season. What was the process for picking a story and actually getting it made?

Joe_Dante12 karma

Mick Garris had a dinner for a bunch of us, and we were told we'd have complete creative control over what we wanted to do. Since it was Showtime, there were no limits on violence, sex and nudity. Both of my episodes were based off of short stories I knew I wanted to make into films and Sam Hamm adapted both.

dnazzx3410 karma

Loved 'The Burb's' far and away my favorite Tom Hanks comedy role. Do you find a particular 'type' of film more difficult to film vs another (i.e. comedy vs horror.) Also I think the world needs another suburban comedy about questionable neighbors...along with another Tom Hanks comedy role.

Joe_Dante8 karma

I always get pegged as a horror guy, but the truth is I'd love to do more comedy. Tom's as much a comic genius as he is a brilliant dramatic actor.

thurman_thomas9 karma

Why did you decide to present the Screwfly Solution as straight horror? Any other short stories you would like to make a film adaptation of?

Joe_Dante19 karma

Well, it was a pretty grim story. I'd wanted to make it as a feature for years, but after I sat back and looked at my Masters of Horror version I realized how bad an idea that would have been. Soooo depressing!

Yeah, I wish there was another series like that one--there are plenty of short stories that would make good hour-long movies.

Blzbba9 karma

Does Gizmo say "Goddamn! Bright Light!!" at a point early in the movie where one of main characters makes the mistake of turning a light on? Or am I just hearing it strangely?

Joe_Dante20 karma

Gizmo NEVER swears on camera. He has a thing about it. OFF-camera though, that's something else. He has the mouth of a longshoreman, but no matter how obscene, the words just sound silly in his high pitched sissy voice.

theycallmebug9 karma

The Howling is one my horror faves, kudos on doing such a great job with it. Did you find it difficult to keep it scary without resorting to cheesiness?

Joe_Dante14 karma

Werewolf movies were considered kind of passe in 1980, so we gussied ours up with a lot of urban slasher ingredients and kind of snuck in the supernatural stuff. Seemed to work ok, since there were at least five other werewolf pix that came out after us.

atomnine9 karma

Your films have been an enormous inspiration to me. Ever since the passing of Jerry Goldsmith, there has been a HUGE hole in movie scores. I listen to at least one of his soundtracks a day. For me, there was nothing like buying a new Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack and just listening to it over and over, memorizing each and every note. I know he was your friend and I can't imagine how you must feel. How do you approach your films differently with new composers?

Joe_Dante11 karma

I knew of course that Jerry was a one-of-a-kind gift to my career and I miss knowing he's waiting in the wings to fix up my mistakes. But along the way there were projects I couldn't afford him on, and he turned me on to composer Hummie Mann, who's done a number of things for me. An on THE HOLE I used Guillermo's composer Javier Navarette, who did a swell job.

macdezignr9 karma

Oh god, the Burbs! Tom hanks scene at the dinner table, that noise he makes with the sardines, it haunts my dreams! Who/ where did that come from?

Thanks for everything, soo much childhood from you, i was born 1980.

Joe_Dante8 karma

While we were shooting the sardine scene, producer Larry Brezner was chuckling "comedy gold!" ( Born in 1980! A mere child!)

arbitraryentry8 karma

As a five year old who saw Gremlins, I had nightmares for years and was terrified of every cupboard I ever saw. It was a petrifying existence.

I just feel like you should know that.

Joe_Dante20 karma

My sympathies. Don't see GHOULIES--they come out of toilets!

alldoneson8 karma

Hi Joe. Thank you for doing this AMA!
I'm at a place in my career where I've had commercial success in my creative field but now I'm no longer a big enough name to go forward. (Or at least that's what the common rejection line is)

I've since developed other opportunities for myself to be a success again. And I find that I'm constantly running back into that wall, no matter the project.

I'm wondering if you've ever run into this problem during your career and how did you resolve it.

Joe_Dante21 karma

Hey, I'm having it now! You just have to keep plugging, no matter how many possible projects evaporate. It's small comfort that most everyone else is going through the same thing, but they are.

FAcup8 karma

Wow awesome.

Maybe you can answer me this question that's been bugging me for ages.

Gremlins and eating after midnight? How exactly does that work? Technically 8:30pm is after midnight. But also before midnight. When can a gremlin eat?

P.s. love gremlins and just found out you did small soldiers, love that film too.

Joe_Dante12 karma

See earlier reply re: midnight. The Small Soldiers love you back. Platonicly.

Atlanta-MW7 karma

Is it true that Jamie Hyneman from the Mythbusters did a lot of the animatronics? What was it like working with him?

Joe_Dante9 karma

I don't think that's correct, but I could be wrong.

mttwldngr7 karma

I've always had a passion for filmmaking for however long I can remember. I think the current and projected state of the industry, along with simply how it is, proves it to be an unstable career if not successful, which in itself can take a long time.

I guess my question is, what advice do you have for someone who wants to becoming involved in filmmaking but is scared to take the path due to the instability (I'm currently a business major)? Thanks!

Joe_Dante24 karma

Well, I wouldn't call filmmaking a stable business, especially not at the moment. But that doesn't mean you can't get together with some friends and a camera and shoot something. The tools of filmmaking are more user-friendly than ever, so you can dabble without actually having to commit yourself for a lifetime.