The movie Christine became a cult classic overnight thanks to a great cast and the title star of the film.
Who would ever predict that a demonically possessed 50s ride would become an icon to the point where it has its own cult following?
‘Car guys have always been fascinated by the car itself and Christine fans are rabid fans of the sheer evil-ness behind the ’58 Fury so MSCC contacted Alexandra Paul for an interview about what it was like to share the stage with another strong female lead’.
Here are the highlights from a great interview with a very insightful and down to earth Hollywood actor.
Could you ID a ’58 Plymouth before the movie Christine?
“Not at all, I would have just said that’s an old car. For years I’ve been saying it’s a ’57—I don’t know why! I’ve learned a little more about cars since I’ve been talking to people about Christine”.
Were you aware of the car’s role in the movie before the film?
“Before I got cast, I hadn’t actually seen any Steven King or John Carpenter films because I’m not a horror fan. I did read the book after I got cast to get a fuller idea of the story and of course, I did read the script.
Was it fairly early in the movie when you first saw Christine?
“As I recall, the first scenes were in the high school so I didn’t act with the car right away. Keith had quite a few segments with Christine but first he had to buy the car and then get cooler before I started dating him and then interacting with the car. I was new to acting, had only done one professional job before Christine so I wasn’t used to acting with anyone—much less a car”.
Was the drive-in scene the first one you did with Christine?
“No, it wasn’t the drive-in scene for sure. They had to be pretty careful because they only had a certain number of cars and they ended up crushing all but three so the schedule was very much dependent upon what cars were available so they started doing all the crushing stuff later—you know, the killing of the bad guys so that scene where I’m with Arnie as he sees the car smashed up by the bad guys—that might have been one of my first scenes with Christine although now I’m thinking no. I really am sorry, I can’t remember which one was first. That warehouse stuff was done later I am pretty sure”.
“Actually, I auctioned off for charity my original script and the schedule in 2010. The money went to Artists For A New South Africa—an organization of which I was on the board. There was a shooting schedule in there too—I should have Xeroxed it but I didn’t.”
When you saw this car did you look at it as just a prop?
“Yeah, I did—I am not a car person but I looked at it as yes—she had a personality. I didn’t appreciate the actual car then but I appreciate now after having talked to so many people who love cars, who loved the movie and the book, I have more of an appreciation”.
Were you around any of the crushing scenes or the stunt scenes with the car?
“Yes I was –I was there watching when Christine re-made herself in the garage so I saw that with the pneumatics. They had amazing tricks—the fenders and things were made out of rubber-something that could be inflated and deflated. They had to make it look like it was crushed. I think they also –I’m sure the Blu-ray version had John Carpenter and Keith talking about and giving all the commentary through the film and I’m sure they talk about how that’s done. My recollection is that she’s putting herself together but they had them stuff the rubber in and then they played it backwards. It was very state of the art technology back in 1982.”
Were there any moments on the set where the car didn’t perform right like not stop or a door didn’t close or something?
“No not for me—remember that we had over 20 cars and they were in different states of disrepair when the production company bought them so they bought some that were old and didn’t run, some were just for parts, so they could muscle up a Christine or one needed a window or something like that so they just got parts from the others. There were many that didn’t do what they were supposed to do so then they would just swap out parts from another car to make it have more power, for example.”
“My understanding is that the Plymouth Fury wasn’t a very popular car when it came out—that’s the reason Stephen King picked the Plymouth Fury because it wasn’t a hugely popular car. Back then you could go to the DMV and ask who owns Plymouth Furys and then they would give you the contact information—you can’t do that anymore because there was a young actress (Rebecca Shaeffer) who was killed in the 80s—she was shot by a stalker who got her home information from the DMV so you can’t do that anymore. We have the internet now that we can find cars, but it was very lucky that they were able to find so many from all over the country”.
After the film did you get the impression there was a cult following for the car?
“No, not until—I didn’t get the impression there was a cult following for the car and understand how important until—I’ll tell you something—I get more residuals from Christine than any other project I’ve done and Christine was done right at the beginning of my career and that tells you something that it’s really had a lasting power but it plays a lot. I know it was popular in Germany and I don’t know where else overseas and I know it translated okay overseas so yeah—that’s what gave me the first hints. Maybe like 15 years in I began to see wow—Christine is still playing on TV”.
“And then going to my first autograph show in 2010, I was pretty surprised by the ardor that people had for the show and I met people from the Christine car club and saw how important the car and the movie was for them and that’s always nice—but no, I didn’t realize that until years after the movie came out. I would say in 2010, I really understood the passion people have for the movie, the car and for John Carpenter.”
“I think the reason we’ve had this longevity is that two reasons—horror film fans are very loyal and passionate so that helps but then you have the car people who are also very passionate. I myself do not have passion for horror movies or cars (unless they are electric cars!) but I really, really respect the people who do.
Christine has become a cultural icon—it was even in Sharknado so what are your thoughts?
“I did a cameo in Sharknado and I actually suggested that to the director—I said hey, you should put me in the car scene so that would be two cult references that would be Baywatch and Christine. He just laughed—they don’t have a budget for that”.
Have you ever been around any Christines since the show?
“Yes, I was just at an autograph show in Delaware—Ocean City there was a car there–I went to a screening of Christine and signed autographs and there was a car outside and she was from the movie The movie cars were painted so there would be no reflection (on the chrome). I know that the producer bought one. There were three that were intact—apparently they were saved they weren’t crushed or whatever. It’s amazing—it could have a longer career than me.”
“You know there’s going to be a sequel—the producer has been approached and they’re talking about a sequel or it might be a re-make”.
One final question—do you want to apologize to all the Christine fans when you said you hate that car?
“No—because I haven’t changed my mind. Christine and I still have a rivalry- probably because she may have more fans than I do! I’m still friends with many of the actors—I feel so lucky to have been cast in that movie.”
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