Festival Diary: Roger Corman & John Waters, Together at Last!


Roger Corman speaks to a crowd at the Provincetown Film Festival as John Waters looks on. Photo by Bruce Gilbert.

A couple of years ago, filmmaker John Waters wrote a book called Role Models. The other night in Provincetown, MA—his summer home—Waters was on stage with one of his own idols: Roger Corman.

"He's one of my all-time heroes," John Waters gushed on stage at the local Town Hall in Provincetown as he introduced Corman to a standing ovation from the large crowd.

Throughout the day, Corman graciously received accolades from fans and filmmakers ahead of Saturday night's celebration of his work. Corman was awarded the festival's Filmmaker on the Edge Award and he also sat down for an extended conversation with John Waters, as well as questions from the adoring audience.

"Trashmeister John Waters and King of the B's Roger Corman were a match made in cult-movie heaven," proclaimed the Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney in a dispatch from the event.

A video excerpt from the conversation, via Movieline, is available at the end of this article.

Over the course of the talk, the eighty-six year old Corman was sharp and funny. A master storyteller with a canny ability to recount tales from his eclectic life in the movies, Corman is best known for launching the careers of many filmmakers and actors. Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Nicholson and many others all got their start working with Corman early on in their careers.

Roger Corman has directed some 56 films and produced more than 400. His latest, Piranhaconda, aired on the SyFy network the same night as Corman's tribute in Provincetown. Yet, he bemoaned the fact that theatrical distribution is the exception for his low-budget movies these days. He said he now makes just four or five moves each year.

Corman's New World Pictures, formed in the 70s, was a production and distribution company for his work. Alongside B movies and exploitation pictures, Corman tried his hand at auteur distribution and found success. Among his high art acquisitions were Fellini's Amarcord and Bergman's Cries and Whispers.

"If I could at least break event, I would be happy that I distributed these films," Corman related in Provincetown.

Recalling Fellini specifically, Corman said that the Italian auteur advised him to skip distribution and stick to directing. "On the other hand, I did a good job," Corman told Waters, "We won the damn Academy Award!" Fellini was awarded the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1974.

On stage, Waters pushed Corman to dish some dirt on a Hollywood star. Quick to respond, Corman singled out actor Stewart Granger. In a Corman movie, Granger was being a bit of a diva, demanding a specific line that was supposed to come from another character. Giving in, Corman wrote some extra lines for Granger's character. But, the director won in the end.

"This is something that actors don't realize," he told John Waters. "Once you finish shooting you go into the editing room. I cut all his lines out!"

Laughing and joking, Waters ate up Corman's anecdotes, clearly loving his presence in Provincetown. During the festival, the two men gathered at a nearby drive-in theater in Wellfleet for a screening of Corman's 1967 movie The Trip.

Recalling his own trips to the drive-in to see the exploitation pictures, Waters was enthusiastic. "It was a huge part of my growing up," Waters told Corman and the crowd.

An alt movie icon in his own right, John Waters is a Provincetown fixture. He spends his summers at the eclectic resort town at the tip of Cape Cod. Most days you can spot him riding his bike along Commercial St., the main drag of this small town. Over the weekend, I ran into him hanging out at a local shop, sitting on a stool chatting with the owner. Later that night he opened up his small loft studio for late-night bash with festival filmmakers.

Waters recently settled into his Provincetown pad for the summer, capping a hitchhiking trip across the country. He traveled from his native Baltimore to San Francisco on the west coast. The journey is the subject of his new book.

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