A COVERSATION WITH BEST WORST MOVIE
PRINCIPALS ON THE RISE OF TROLL 2 FROM
CINEMA DISASTER TO CULT CLASSIC
(Michael Paul Stephenson above)
Twenty years ago Troll 2 became known as one of the worst movies ever made, then, inexplicitly, it became a cult favorite. Now, cast members Michael Stephenson and George Hardy have teamed up to make the endearing award-winning documentary Best Worst Movie about the Troll 2 phenomenon.
Originally titled Goblins, there are in fact no trolls in Troll 2. That should tell you just how bad this movie really is. Directed by an Italian filmmaker who couldn’t speak English, the plot centered around vegetarian goblins who convert humans into plants so they can eat them. Yes, this is the stuff of legend.
“Intended as a horror film, it was indeed frightening but for all of the wrong reasons,” Best Worst Movie director and Troll 2 child star Michael Stephenson points out. “Troll 2 haunted me. I’d have nightmares about sweating chlorophyll and being turned into a tree. As a teenager, classmates would tease me by shouting my infamous Troll 2 lines in the school hallways, ‘a double-decker bologna sandwich!’”
Best Worst Movie endearingly examines Troll 2’s resurgence while reuniting the quirky cast and crew and should serve as Filmmaking 101 fodder.
Dr. George Hardy, the male lead in Troll 2, now a dentist in Alexander City, Alabama, is the documentary’s standout. Charming and charismatic, Troll 2 was his one and only film and it’s interesting to see how he now clamors for the spotlight as fans worldwide see him as a movie star (think a poor man’s Bruce Campbell).
We recently had the pleasure to chat with Michael Stephenson and George Hardy, ever the Southern gentleman, about life after Troll 2, the making of Best Worst Movie and their future.
When did you know you starred in a really bad movie in Troll 2?
Michael Stephenson: I didn’t know until the first time seeing it. As we were making the film I felt like we were making a great horror movie. That’s what we all showed up to do. A year and a half after we finished the film, Christmas morning, was the first time I watched it. Up until that point I had wondered what had happened to the movie because I thought we’d go to the theater and se it but that never happened. So a year and a half later, Christmas morning, I’m unwrapping one of my last presents and there’s this strange VHS tape titled Troll 2 and I was puzzled because when we made the movie it was known as Goblin. And I just remember my mom saying, ‘It’s your movie, play it.’ And less than 20 seconds into it my dad had this concerned look on his face and said, ‘Michael, this is a terrible movie.’ And I was old enough to realize this was a bad movie.
George Hardy: My patients were coming into my practice telling me my movie was out and then my sister called me from Philadelphia and said the same and I had not seen it yet. And she said it was really, really bad. I dreaded watching it for the first time. After five minutes I took it out (of the VCR) and let it fall behind the TV. I think it collected dust for 17 years. I didn’t watch it again until the resurgence. I forced myself to watch a couple of times.
When did you finally embrace the movie?
MS: I started the documentary before the resurgence actually, there were no sold out screening and Troll 2 hadn’t played in a theater yet. I always wanted to be a filmmaker and right around the first of the year 2006 I started getting these messages on Myspace saying they were huge fans of Troll 2. At first I thought this movie was never going to go away. And then came pictures of kids watching Troll 2 and eating green food and dressing up like goblins and celebrating this film. And I thought, how does something like this happen? This movie was made 20 years ago! It was really interesting how it was finding its audience organically just through word of mouth and I had this feeling it was reaching this critical mass and something special was happening with Troll 2. And I remember waking up one day and having this incredibly warm feeling that, as silly as it sounds, that I’m the child star of the worst movie ever made, there’s a story here. But no way could I have foreseen the adventure that we’d end up on.
You spent four years making Best Worst Movie, you really must have come to terms with the whole Troll 2 experience.
MS: Oddly enough I’ve grown closer to this film throughout this whole process. Where I was completely distant from it now I appreciate it for what it is. It’s this magical movie that fails in every way, acting, writing, directing, just fails in every possible way but it doesn’t fail to entertain. It was made with a lot of heart.
It should almost be recommended as Filmmaking 101 material.
GH: To me, I really feel people in this town really need to see this movie because it really hits home. If an actor or director sees this film, it hits so strong with what this film is all about. It’s really powerful. You can’t make it unless you’re in L.A. or N.Y. and people in Los Angeles really need to see this movie.
MS: It says a lot about filmmaking and a lot about the level of heart that are required to make a film.
What’s next for you?
MS: Vacation (laughs). This is a dream come true for me. I’ve been asked to direct a narrative film which I don’t know if it will be my next project or not but my hope is that I can continue to create media and films that move people.
What do you hope audiences take away from Best Worst Movie?
MS: I just hope people leave smiling. You can’t take life too seriously. I’m really happy when we screen the film and you can feel that energy at the end. It’s not about whether you’ve seen Troll 2 or not or whether you’re a fan or not and it’s not about a phenomenon, it’s really almost this strange story of redemption and this line between fame and infamy.
GH: Follow your heart. Just cut your head off, it only gets you in trouble.
Click here to watch the Best Worst Movie trailer.
Click here to listen to Hardy’s classic “You Can’t Piss On Hospitality” line.
Click here to watch Troll 2 in its entirety if you dare!
Photos courtesy of: Best Worst Movie