August 3, 2012

Q&A with THE SKID KID's Gary Wolf

Gary Wolf has kept a fairly low but busy profile throughout his 21-year-career in film and television, playing oddly-named characters such as Gecko, Snake and Johnny The Dick. But before that, he helped bring justice to the Midwest as his most oddly-named character to date -- that of Scooter Spielberg in 1991's The Skid Kid, in which Wolf received top billing playing the 16-year-old from Union, Missouri who becomes a vigilante superhero after finding an abandoned pair of cola-fueled rocket boots. It's as gloriously ridiculous as it sounds and, feeling the overwhelming need to share it with as many people as possible, I recently screened The Skid Kid as part of a live Trash Nite event called Superzeroes. The crowd reaction was a palpable mixture of awe, bewilderment, hilarity and esteem -- much like my own experience when I saw it for the first time. But how does the film's star feel about it? To find out, I caught up with Gary Wolf, who was gracious enough to take time out of a family vacation for this interview.

Trash Nite: When was The Skid Kid filmed and about how old were you at the time?

Gary Wolf: Had to be around '89. I was 20.

TN: The Skid Kid pre-dates the earliest entry in your IMDB filmography by five years. Was this your first film role? Had you done any prior acting?

GW: Yes. It was my first film role. I grew up doing primarily theatre.

TN: You, your brother Scott and your sister Jessica all have roles in the film. How did that come about?

GW: The director, Glen Gruner, was looking to cast the other roles and I suggested my siblings. It was the most streamlined approach to moving ahead with production.

TN: Was it at all awkward to be playing your sister's on-screen boyfriend?

GW: That's a great question. Being that there weren't any kissing scenes or any real romantic physical contact, it was a breeze. No real awkwardness to navigate. We're close as siblings and genuinely like each other as people so it made the on-screen relationship easy.

TN: Many of the scenes in which you see the Scooter character in full costume were performed by one of ten different doubles, including many of the fight and stop-motion/pixilation segments. How much of this was actually you? Did you have any prior martial arts training?

GW: No martial arts training, although that would've been nice. Most of the stop-motion "skidding" scenes were me. As you can imagine, those scenes took quite some time to shoot. A constant cycle of "shoot a frame, inch forward...shoot another frame, inch forward..." and so forth. But the fight scenes were shot on different days using the other doubles.

TN: One of my favorite inexplicably odd bits in The Skid Kid is the exceedingly complicated handshake Scooter gives his never-to-be-seen-again buddy Harold. Who came up with that?

GW: I honestly don't remember. We're talking twenty-two years ago. It's possible Glen told the other actor and I to work something out.

TN: How long did you personally spend working on the movie? What did you do with your time off?

GW: It seems I spent about two weeks total but as I remember, it was spread out over several months. Glen had other endeavors and we'd shoot when everyone's schedule linked up. I'd go back to my life -- I was in junior college at the time -- and the phone would ring and it'd be Glen and we'd just head out with the cameras and crew. My time off was spent going to school, playing sports and hanging with friends.

TN: So you were living in the St. Louis area at the time?

GW: Yes. Belleville, Illinois to be exact. Right across the Mississippi river from St. Louis. My father relocated there from the east coast for business. When I was 16, I moved out there to live with him.

TN: The credits list a rather large technical crew for such a seemingly low-budget film. How many people were actually behind the camera at any given moment?

GW: Small crew. Very small. As in, Glen holding the camera and one other person holding a light or a bounce board. He probably had several people in on the post production end so the list grew substantially.

TN: Do you remember how much you were paid?

GW: I may have been paid a little, but it was mostly a labor of love. I was ecstatic to be starring in a film at the time.

TN: Did you keep any souvenirs? A piece of the costume, that sort of thing?

GW: I don't have anything today from the film so unless I gave it away, I don't believe I did.

TN: This was Glen Gruner's first and, at present, only directorial effort. What was he like to work with?

GW: He was fantastic. Very respectful. I remember he had this huge imagination and got very kid-like when explaining how he wanted a scene to go. It was important to him to keep the atmosphere on the set loose. When I say set, I should really say location, because as I recall, all my scenes were shot on location.

TN: What was your reaction after having seen the finished film for the first time?

GW: I thought it was a fun film. I didn't think it was going to win any awards.

TN: Was there ever a theatrical premiere or was this strictly a straight-to-video venture? What was the expectation for the film's performance?

GW: No theatrical premiere. Straight to video. I don't know what Glen's expectations were. He may have tried to find a distributor but I'm not certain.

TN: Have your friends and significant others seen the film? Do people ever ask you about it?

GW: Only family has seen it. Maybe a couple friends. Only since the internet revolution came about have I been occasionally asked about it, due to many segments of the film being on YouTube.

TN: How recently have you personally watched The Skid Kid and how do you feel about it today? And if it were to attain the kind of cult status that, for instance, Troll 2 has enjoyed, do you think that would that change the way you view the film?

GW: I haven't watched the film in many years. Only just recently because of this interview, my family and I watched a couple scenes online. I feel the same about it today as I did then. Fun for what it is but not in the category of exceptional filmmaking. Cult status would be fun, but I don't think it would change my view of the film.

TN: The Skid Kid isn't the only time you've worked professionally with your siblings -- you currently run a commercial production company, The Wolf Brothers, with your brother Michael. What's that experience been like?

GW: It's been amazing. We are developing our director's reel as we speak, writing and directing our own spots, furthering ourselves as commodities in the commercial production marketplace.

TN: One final question -- how exactly are Scooter and Steven Spielberg related?

GW: almost got me. Only Scooter and Steven know that. And that's the way we'll keep it.

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