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Interview with Russ Banham (Crockett)
MeatballsOnline reached out to a dozen frequent visitors to this site and asked them for some questions for our friend Russ. Now living in Seattle, Russ was gracious enough to grant an interview. Enjoy!
How did you get the role of Crockett?
I was talking to my kid sister the other day and she reminded me about my audition for Meatballs. I was with her at Jones Beach on Long Island wearing nothing more than a pair of cutoff jeans--no shirt or socks. I called my answering machine while we were there and had an urgent message from my agent in NY that a Canadian film director was in town that day only to audition actors for a movie called Summer Camp. I had to get from the beach to Manhattan in less than an hour and one-half to make the audition, which meant I had no time to change clothes. I arrived in my short shorts looking like I had just stepped off a beach, and Ivan and Danny Goldberg thought that I had carefully planned my "outfit." The next day I was told I got the part of Crockett! To this day Ivan and Danny don't believe that it was serendipitous.
How long did the movie Meatballs take to make? Were you there for all/most of the shooting?
The actual shooting lasted about five weeks and I was there for all of it. They had cute cabins and a lodge set up right by the lake for the cast members and some of the crew. Two people shared each cabin, with a wall separating the two rooms. My cabin mate was Wheels (Todd Hoffman.)
Did Bill Murray pull or do anything funny behind the scenes?
The men in the cast had a party at Bill Murray's cabin one night. We all piled into this small boat Bill had rented, beers in hand, when the damn thing sunk. I kid you not. It was a cold evening in Haliburton and when we got back to the cabin, Bill pulled out some sheets from the closet in the room and we dressed in "togas" for the rest of night. True story.
Did you know any of your fellow cast members before the movie began?
Not a one. I drove from the Toronto airport to the set in a posh limo with Cindi Girling, whom I didn't know. The two of us were latecomers. I remember her as a wonderful lady with charm, charisma and beauty to spare. We got to Halliburton and who pops out of a bush to say "Hi" but Wheels, my everlasting buddy Todd Hoffman, still a close friend. Must say all of us hit it off, as far as I remember. We were a special group.
So did any of the CIT's really hook up?
Yes. It was the 70’s you know – still feeling the heat of the sexual revolution. It was before things like AIDS were an issue and several of the CITs got along REALLY well.
What were you doing when you weren’t filming?
They had a small Cessna plane that would take some of us to Toronto for the weekend. It only held four people, so it made for some interesting journeys. When we were not shooting, we were having fun at the lake. Todd and I usually had bottles of tequila, lemons, limes and salt – made for some long evenings. We played lots of volleyball. Most nights we would gather in the central lodge where we would drink ‘till the early morning hours, many nights playing poker. I played cards and made some nice money off the novices. Bill was a great card player too. It was here he turned me onto Remy Martin cognac. Most fun I’ve ever had over a 5 week period!
Have you been asked to participate in the Meatballs movie remake? How many actors have been asked to come back in the 2nd film or have you heard from anyone that did commit?
Never asked to be in any sequels or remakes. Frankly, don't think any of us were asked and not sure if we would have jumped on board. The original Meatballs was too special to dilute in half-baked re-dos. Unless Ivan, Ramis and Bill join in, of course! Then we'll play 50 year-old versions of ourselves – maybe camper parents/grandparents?
Did you keep any of the costumes or memorabilia from the movie?
I kept the red cardigan jacket that I wore in the dance sequence -- I loved it. Gave it to my cousin Billy shortly thereafter since he liked it even more. Doubt he still has it. Costumer and I found it in a vintage clothing shop in Haliburton or a nearby town. Half the clothes I wore in the movie I brought with me--same with most of the cast. The rest we picked up at that vintage shop. Cannot believe how short the shorts were that we wore back then. With my Afro and skinny legs I look like a Q-Tip.
Is it true that you wrote most of the “We are the CITs so Pity Us” song?
Yes, I wrote most of the song while we were up there in Canada, and the melody was based on my college fraternity song.
Was there a certain time when you realized how many people STILL love this movie and that it would such a part of people's lives?
There was a time I specifically remember about 10 years after the movie came out. My acting career had basically concluded and I was working as a journalist. I was sitting in a tavern in Manhattan, and this young woman in her 20’s recognized me. She told me that every year they would show the film at her summer camp. I was amazed, but she said all summer camps show the film! I wanted to forget Meatballs back then, but this turned around my thinking about the movie and the effect it had. Also, my wife’s brother already knew most of the lines from the movie when I first met him!
Do you have a fond memory of seeing cast members after the movie ended?
I remember once, I was living in NYC when Matt Craven came to visit from Canada. We had lunch with Bill Murray. He asked us if we wanted to come by and catch that night’s episode of SNL. I ended up hanging out in Dan Aykroyd’s dressing room with Dan, Brian Doyle Murray and partying with that week’s musical guest – The Rolling Stones! Matt and I were actually in three scenes of that SNL episode, the first show of the 1979 season, before Meatballs premiered.
Matt and I spent the entire week with the SNL cast and the Stones. We even went to the wrap party at the old Essex Hotel. The Stones are very small men; their ladies, on the other hand, were Amazons, towering over them.
What project(s) are you working on right now?
I'll be directing Henry V next season for Seattle Shakespeare Company. I no longer act--a blessing to the profession. Who needs skinny legs and Afros anymore? If only I had that red cardigan. Also, I just finished a new book. It's called "The Fight for Fairfax."
--> Email Russ
October 19, 2011 - Looks like you can now rent Meatballs from the folks at Netflix!
August 30, 2011 - For all those fans that want to meet Kristine DeBell, this is your chance. She will be appearing October 8-9 at the Hollywood Show in Burbank, CA. If you go, tell her about this website and to reach out for an interview!
July 29, 2011 - Back in April of 2007, Sony Pictures confirmed the upcoming Meatballs Blu-ray disc release to be indefinitely postponed. Our friends at Blu-ray.com show upcoming releases through May 2012 and no Meatballs. Say it ain't so!
July 22, 2011 - A great article and interview with Matt Craven with the Times Colonist newspaper in Canada. He references Meatballs and what a great mentor "Billy" Murray was back in the day.
June 30, 2011 - New photo of Kristine DeBell emerges. Thanks to Randy P. for the find!
February 27, 2011 - Uploaded a full set of 16 German Meatballs promo cards to the Stuff section.
January 21, 2011 - "Are you ready for the summer" song played 2 minutes into the Southpark episode 202 Crippled Summer.
December 15, 2010 - Meatballs was referenced in a May 5, 2009 airing of Who Wants to be a Millioinaire. It was "famous names week" and a guy whose name is Bill Murray was a guest!
October 20, 2010 - MeatballsOnline now has a Twitter account. You can find us on twitter.com as TripperH
August 18, 2010 -FilmBuffOnLine is reporting that Paramount is again moving forward with the Meatballs remake.
Seems as though they have tossed aside a script that writer Geoff LaTulippe had been working on and have hired Josh Heald.
Article states that the great Ivan Reitman is on the project as producer. Seems as though we have all heard this before? You be the judge!
August 6, 2010 - The innovative folks over at Mondo Video chose to profile Meatballs in their latest feature article. And guess who was interviewed for the article? None other than yours truely. Enjoy!
July 22, 2010 - Uploaded a PDF version of the original Meatballs script titled "Summer Camp." You can download the complete script by visiting the Stuff page.
June 17, 2010 - Check out this photo of our own Cindy Girling (Wendy.) She won the Miss Burlington Pageant in 1977, and then went on to place third in the Miss Canada Contest. Cindy, if you are out there, please let us know. The fans want to hear what you have been up to!
June 6, 2010 - Found a great Jack Blum interview from November 19, 2009 with The Canadian Press where he give some great commentary and insider information on the movie Meatballs. Meatballs still "clearly a classic" says Blum.
April 20, 2010 - Spartan Youth Radio recently interviewed Meatballs stars Jack Blum and Norma Del'Agnesse about Canadian films, what it was like to work with Ivan Reitman and Bill Murray, and what filmmakers need to do in order to become known.
March 30, 2010 - New photo of Kristine DeBell dated March 26, 2010
December 31, 2009 - FYI: Bill Murray will be reprising his role of Dr. Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters III which will star all of the original cast said Harold Ramis. The movie has plans to shoot next summer and release in 2011.
December 17, 2009 - Ever watch the new show "Community" on NBC? It is great and written by a couple guys who wrote for Arrested Development. Meatballs was mentioned by the character "Abed" in Episode 12 which is titled "Comparitive Religion."
The special guest for this episode was Anthony Michael Hall. Funny enough, Chevy Chase plays "Pierce", one of the main characters on Community. Wonder if they have acted together since "Vacation?"
November 27, 2009 - Watched "Family Guy" the other day and saw that Meatballs is mentioned in a hillarious (then again, which ones aren't?) Episode 27 of Season 4 titled "Griffin Family History" which originally aired May 14, 2006. "Are You Ready For The Summer?" is played when the slaves put their master's bed out to sea. Once again, the great Seth MacFarlane comes through!
October 30, 2009 - New photo of Kristine DeBell dated October 13, 2009:
October 1, 2009 - Harold Ramis quoted referencing new Meatballs movie on movieweb.com:
What about a new Meatballs? I see that you are attached to make a remake?
Harold Ramis: I heard that. I asked Ivan Reitman. I think there is some development on that front. I had so little to do with the first one, I am a little amazed that they mentioned it in my IMDB bio. I was a script doctor on the first one. I have nothing at all to do with this new one. Heck, maybe I can get some points on it. (Laughs)
August 19, 2009 - Great screenwriter profile of Harold Ramis in which Meatballis is profiled at the MTV Movies Blog.
August 11, 2009 - Comedy Central is once again showing Meatballs; this time on Wednesday, August 26 at 4:00 p.m.
July 30, 2009 - Anyone watch Trailer Park Boys? This Canadian comedy made a nice call-out to the movie Meatballs in Season 7, Episode 4 which aired on April 29, 2007.
The character Bubbles was holed up in a phone booth listening to an automated phone quiz that asked "Who played the crazy camp councilor in the movie Meatballs, was it Marlon Brando, Bill Murray or Tom Hanks?"
July 17, 2009 - Comedy Central is playing Meatballs next weekend: Friday, July 24 at 4:30 p.m. and Saturday, July 25 at 9:00 a.m.
July 7, 2009 - Did anyone catch the Pop Culture article in this week's edition of Entertainment Weekly? Not sure if I agree with Josh's assessment, but you be the judge . . .
June 29, 2009 -Digitalspy.com is reporting that a remake of Meatballs is said to be in the early stages of development at Paramount studios.
Paramount’s Greg Mooradian will oversee the new version, which does not yet have a writer or director attached.
The studio has partnered with Montecito Pictures, which is co-run by original director Ivan Reitman, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Several years ago, Lionsgate was said to be working on a new version of the film, but it failed to materialize.
May 11, 2009 - Found a Meatballs promotional card printed on heavy stock paper. Common but fun.
April 17, 2009 - Uploaded a PDF of the original Meatballs press book from the press kit when the movie was released. It contains a synopsis of the movie, some behind the scenes stories and all of the ad specs for promitions.
March 28, 2009 - IMDB listed a new photo of Kristen DeBell. The photo is dated March 11, 2009. She is still as beautiful as ever! Kristin, if you are out there, please contact us and let us know how you are doing!
March 20, 2009 - Bill Murray update: He finished recording the voiceover of Dr. Peter Venkman for the June 16, 2009 release of Ghostbusters: the Video Game.
February 19, 2009 - Odd piece of trivia: Keith Knight (Fink) and Peter Hume (The Stomach), from the famous hot dog eating scene, were both born in Ontario, Canada and died within 60 days of each other. Knight passed away on August 22, 2007, and Hume died on October 22, 2007.
February 17, 2009 - Started a Meatballs blog. Please post early and often! Link here.
January 30, 2009 - Added MOTM and a few new photos.
January 1, 2009 - Happy New Year everyone! - I will be posting some original Lobby Cards and other cool stuff in the coming weeks. Stay in touch!
December 27, 2008 - By popular demand, I have uploaded the classic Tripper "It Just Doesen't Matter" speech to the Media section!
Meatball of the Month
Jack Blum is a Canadian writer, producer, director, story editor, actor, educator and communications consultant based in Toronto, Canada.
Born in Toronto, Blum grew up in Hamilton, Canada and trained as an actor at the National Theature School of Canada.
On graduating from the NTS he appeared in many feature films and television shows, including most notably Meatballs.
Blum was a 20-year-old theatre director when Meatballs was made. His brother, Len, co-wrote the script with Dan Goldberg, Janis Allen and Harold Ramis. Blum was also one of the casting directors and helped find Canadian talent for the film through an open audition that drew in 1,100 kids over three days in 1978.
In the early 1980's, Blum began writing for television. In addition to episodes of the series Sons and Daughters, and The Edison Twins, he co-wrote and was Associate Producer on the television movie Hockey Night, starring Rick Moranis, for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and the award-winning short drama The Umpire for the National Film Board of Canada.
He has written and produced more than fifty hours of television drama for both Canadian and American broadcasters.
In 1985 he began working with co-writer Sharon Corder. Together they co-created the celebrated and long-running series Traders, as well as a host of other episodes of television drama. They were Story Editors on the syndicated series Catwalk, and Supervising Producers on Powerplay (CTV.)
In the theatre, he directed productions across Canada (including several world premieres) and was Associate Artistic Director at the La Jolla Playhouse in California.
He has written many articles about the film industry for periodicals (Take One, Montage, POV), taughtcorses in screenwriting, and been active as a lobbyist for indigenous Canadian film production.
He has also worked as a communications consultant for several prominent Canadian politicians. Since 1998 he has served as Chair of the Credit Arbitration Committee of the Writers Guild of Canada
In 1998 Blum and Corder wrote and produced a feature film, Babyface (directed and co-written by Blum, produced and co-written by Corder), which premiered at the Director’s Fortnight in Cannes in 1998.
In 2003, the team produced a short drama, DNA, with Corder scripting and Blum directing. The film stars Michael Riley as a grieving widower struggling to get over his loss. In 2005, he and Corder founded Reel Canada, an educational program aimed at promoting Canadian film in high schools. Blum is listed as the Executive Director.
As of 2008, Blum and Corder are developing a new feature film, Crete on the Half Shell, based on the travel memoir of the same name by Byron Ayanoglu, and a four part miniseries, Sunnyside, about Toronto's Great Heat Wave of 1936.
Blum made guest appearances in many television series including Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, Sweating Bullets, Dracula: The Series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, and Street Legal.
He has also received several awards for his work including First Prize at the Festival of the Humanities, Best Feature Length Production ACTRA Award Nominee, the National Independent American Distributors Award, and the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Artistic Excellence and Theatrical Innovation.
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