Keith and I, Chiller Theater, April 2013
Like his grandfather, legendary child actor Jackie Coogan, Keith Coogan got off to a very early start in his acting career. The first ten years of his life were dedicated to television: he did McDonalds commercials and appeared on famous TV shows such as CHiPs, The Waltons, and Mork and Mindy. He also did a voiceover in the Disney animated film The Fox And The Hound along with his peer, actor Corey Feldman.
Keith’s career would get bigger when he appeared in Adventures in Babysitting. Keith played Brad Anderson, a teenager who has a huge crush on his babysitter Chris Parker(played by Elisabeth Shue). [The trailer for Adventures in Babysitting can be viewed here.] Keith followed that up with supporting roles in Hiding Out with Jon Cryer and Cousins with Ted Danson, Lloyd Bridges and William Petersen. Right after that, Keith was invited to the 1988 Oscars, where he did a musical number. The number was to showcase promising new stars such as Corey Feldman, Patrick Dempsey and Christian Slater along with Keith.
Keith continued that success with Toy Soliders and Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead. It is the latter film that Keith is perhaps best known for. The film is about a bunch of kids who are forced to support themselves during the summer when their elderly babysitter dies. Keith is Kenny, the older stoner brother. [The trailer for Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead can be viewed here.]
However, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead would be the high point of Keith’s career. In fact, it would be his last major studio picture. Keith did continue to work in films but none would be big as his previous films. When he is not working in films, he runs two blogs: http://hollywoodkids.blogspot.com/ (where Keith comments on LA, Politics, Media and squirrels) and http://monologueaday.blogspot.com/ (where Keith performs various monologues).
In this candid conversation, we talk about Keith’s quick rise in TV and cinema, discuss favorite moments from Adventures in Babysitting and Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, his later years after his winning streak and what he is up to currently. I want to thank Keith for taking the time to speak to me.
Jeff Cramer: You got started in the industry at a very early age. How did you decide so young that you wanted to get into acting?
KC: I was watching – I was very young, four or five years old, and really liked watching the kids on other shows, like Sesame Street and Electric Company, Zoom, Villa Alegre, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. And I wanted to be on Romper Room. I was like, “Why can’t I be one of the kids? That looks like fun.” I had no siblings, you know. I wanted to play with other kids and it looked like fun on TV.
So my mother, who is Jackie Coogan’s daughter, and who tried acting when she was maybe 13 years old or so, just wasn’t her bag; she didn’t like, you know, doing it; she didn’t like being on the set; she didn’t like following directions; she just liked to buck it all. I was going to say that she was on like a Bosco commercial for like chocolate and she’s like, “I like Nestle Quik better.” So it just wasn’t a good fit for her.
But when she was a child she was introduced, because of her father, to an agent, Charles Schwartz & Associates. Well, that was my first agent. So what we did was we came to L.A., we were living up in the Bay Area at the time, Sacramento actually. People try to lie and say Sacramento, Bay Area. And we came down to L.A. and moved into – we were broke; we were on welfare, I believe – and moved into a tenant change room on the Colony in Malibu. So great neighborhood, beach, wonderful, but didn’t have a kitchen; it was just this, you know, room with a bathroom really.
But from there I got the agent, which was just meeting and, you know, and you read something, and I read really well. I started reading at like three. And I think that has a lot to do with me booking. I could, you know, learn the lines and do that. Acting was not a part of it; it was really hit your marks, have lots of energy, say your line, and go to school and get out.
So I loved it. And, you know, first thing I think I was a stand-in on a McDonald’s commercial. And Denny Harris, who had a commercial production company and had really done all of the McDonald’s commercials with Ronald McDonald that we remember from our childhood, well, I was standing in while the other kid was in school or whatever, ‘cause you have – you can only work like four hours a day with, you know, minors of a certain age, and I’m like my big eyes on the Big Mac and you have like, you have the tray picking up the food is the thing, and the director was like, “Oh, you know what, we’ll use him.” He’s great. Great eyes. Okay.” My mom had always taught me “Use your eyes,” and my grandfather had come from silent films, which was kind of being our bag of tricks. And very effective, it worked, the director wanted to use me.
The mother of the other child raised a fit in her fur coat, “No, you hired my kid and you can’t do that,” but it’s not really fair to the other child. So Denny Harris used the other child in that commercial and said, “Okay, so I’m going to bring you back and we’re going to do something else with you.” I wound up doing a series of McDonald’s commercials; that was really my first toe into the business.
And then from there you do national commercials or public service announcements that are seen nationwide. And then you are trying to get into “theatrical”. “Theatrical” just means anything that’s not a commercial. So any guest appearance on a TV show, sitcom, you know, an hour drama episodic; anything would be good to do a theatrical job.
Well, I got booked on CHiPs and I got booked on – I did this great Movie of the Week with Clu Gulager, Bonnie Bedelia, Gena Rowlands, Jane Alexander. And the producers of that TV movie hired me so I wound up doing another series with them and just – so it really is you do work for producers, the more often you start to work with them they’re like, “Great,” especially when it’s a child and not necessarily something like a name or money that you need; they just want to know that we’re not going to lose time on the set with someone who can’t even say their lines. So it wasn’t necessarily that I was a brilliant young actor, I just was pretty well-behaved and disciplined and could do my job.
I started to really get into it. When I was about eight-years-old I was exposed to The Kid, starring my grandfather. I’d been exposed to it earlier, but did not comprehend who or what this was or what it meant. So I, at eight I started to understand and went, “Oh, okay” and really wanted to get into film, move over from TV into film, and worked very hard at it. So kind of, you know, eight or ten years or so before I got my first picture.
JC: The first picture we’d be talking about would be Adventures in Babysitting.
KC: It is. I wouldn’t count the voiceover for the Fox and the Hound, only because it was a voiceover. But, you know, I’m proud of the work Corey Feldman and I did on the movie and I think that people remember our work and remember our lines even. And so I – that was kind of my first feature, but I wasn’t on camera.
JC: Well it’s kind of interesting, teaming up with Corey Feldman, because you two would have similar careers.
KC: You know, there’s a thing where when I was a child in the industry there’s a lot of other kids in the industry too, so you have a peer group, you know, and you see some kids are worked way harder, like, “Oh you’ve got to do like ballet class or this.” I had it pretty light, I had, you know, little league and I was always in the music programs. But I was never really overcommitted in my real life because I worked quite a bit as a child.
And so we always had, we’d look at each other as just fellow professionals, “Oh, you got something? That’s great.” There was never any jealousy, there was never any, you know, we’re true competition. I certainly lost out on tons of jobs to Corey Feldman. I mean I remember reading for Gremlins, I remember reading Goonies, and he fit that person for the role, so, you know. And, you know, I got Adventures in Babysitting, so it’s a mixed bag. I always have a feeling you get what you’re supposed to get.
And Corey and I have incredibly similar backgrounds; we worked on Love Boat, Fantasy Island, we did, you know, we were on series’ for years; he did The Bad News Bears, I was on The Waltons. He had a great national McDonald’s commercial with bananas coming down and the cookies; that’s Corey Feldman and I think he’s three or four in that. I didn’t – so he started working a few years before me, but he is a few years younger, so we actually started – we’ve had the same amount of time in the industry, let’s put it that way.
Adventures in Babysitting Poster
JC: Adventures in Babysitting would be your first movie and even though Elisabeth Shue is the lead star, you’re close to her throughout most of the movie.
KC: Yeah, I mean they really sold it to us and in rehearsal it turned into an ensemble piece; it was everybody works on all the scenes together.
JC: I have to admit this scene where you and Maia Brewton discuss Thor’s sexuality reminded me of Adventures in Babysitting recently. [Click here to watch this scene.]
KC: Was that what you made you think of interviewing me, with the Thor movie coming out and you’re like-
JC: I’ll admit it, yes. Guilty as charged.
KC: Yeah. Well, hey, maybe that’ll help me here get some jobs.
JC: I have to wonder if your movie sister has been getting a lot of attention recently because of-
KC: I’m sure she has. Thor, mighty God of Thunder.
JC: When that Thor movie came out, there were a lot of articles that refer to Adventures in Babysitting.
KC: For a decade or two the only movie image we have of Thor is Vincent D’Onofrio.
JC: In Full Metal Jacket he was all fat, and when he does Adventures in Babysitting, he’s all buffed up. How did he get the time to get in back in shape?
KC: He gained 80 pounds.
KC: With the record, he beat DeNiro for Raging Bull. He was told to put on like 60 or something. He was in rehearsals for Full Metal Jacket and he found that his character did not have enough fatal flaw. So we can’t find – you know, how do we get this weakness going? And Kubrick, said “Put on some weight” and he went and put on 80 pounds. I mean, that is a performance of a lifetime. And then to get off of that and six months later he’s on the set and he’s ripped for Adventures in Babysitting.
It was so close together that when we were doing the press tour for Adventures in Babysitting, Full Metal Jacket was in theaters. So me and Anthony [Rapp] were on a tour together and we wound up in Salt Lake City and we went and saw Full Metal Jacket, ‘cause we never had an opportunity to see it before working with him; it hadn’t come out. We went and saw it and we were like, “Oh my god.” Pretty amazing. And he was, you know, very focused. He was very method. And, yeah, you know, I don’t think I appreciated it as a 17-year-old. We’re like, “Look, we’re just making a kid’s movie, you know, it doesn’t have to be all method and moody.” But that’s the process, and I have to absolutely respect that. And he made a huge impact. And also her line, where she goes, “Well I know why you’re not acting like yourself, ‘cause you don’t have your special helmet.”
JC: Yeah. Right.
KC: [Laughter] I mean she breaks his heart and you can see that.
KC: And also a great moment when he picks me up and he’s like, “You spreading rumors about me, kid?” I wasn’t acting; I was scared for my life. That is exactly how Keith Coogan would say, “Please don’t beat me up, sir.”
JC: I guess you weren’t also acting when you have a crush on Elisabeth Shue.
KC: Correct. I had a big crush on her. I did put on my blog the other day, because Phoebe Cates was on the front page of Yahoo!, they were talking about her bikini and Web searches up 25-percent. And I remember she was one of the young ladies that screen tested for Adventures in Babysitting. So I put some dirt [Click here to read Keith’s dirt] on my page, like, “Yeah, she screen tested for this other actress – or this other actress, Valerie Bertinelli.” I sat there and watched Valerie Bertinelli do this scene at the door, saying, “Chicken noodle. Maybe I can fix some soup,” you know, the whole first scene where Mike Todwell [played by Bradley Whitford] comes to the door and turns her down. So that was like one of the audition scenes for the Chris Parker role. And I saw Cates do it.
So I had a really big crush on Phoebe Cates, but my – I was like, “Oh my god, if she gets the picture that’s it, I’ve crossed my pubescent event horizon.” But Lisa got it and she’s, you know, I had a huge crush on her from Karate Kid, hello, and I was like, you know what, this is great because it’s not going to be dominated by Phoebe Cates. It’s like this is us, it’s like it’s the picture, you know?
Lisa’s so charming and very smart, but she’s also really good at farce. Really good at hijinks and farce, really grounded. She kept it together. She was 23, I was 17. There was about two weeks of rehearsals before our holiday break and then we were going to come back in January and start shooting the picture for a June or July release. So it was this really tight schedule and we’re in rehearsals and we’re up in Toronto and we stayed in a nice hotel with a restaurant in the bottom. And I went to her, “Elisabeth, hey, can we talk about, you know, maybe get some dinner or something?” And it’s a date, right?
So here we are and I open up to Elisabeth and I say, you know, “We’re going to be working together,” and I knew that there was no real way I was going to have a relationship with Elisabeth Shue, but I wanted to experience the rejection of asking her out and her saying no or laughing in my face. And so I did, I said, “You know, we’re going to be working on this picture and we’re playing a love interest thing and, you know, perhaps we should, you know, get to know you. We could go on a date or …” And she goes, “You know, I’m 23 and I’ve got a boyfriend.” And my heart, it’s crushed, you know. And that, I tell you, I used that, and I used that for the picture for every time she rejected me.
JC: You certainly used her rejection when you confront her sleazy ex-boyfriend.
KC: Yeah. Yes. “And he treats you like dirt and, you know, he doesn’t deserve you.” And that was – that was one of the audition scenes – originally on the subway, and it was a combined scene with some other stuff and then the gangs fit in. But they did so many rewrites from our rehearsals to shooting, and it was all about structure, it was all about moving the story forward and keeping kind of the ball in the air and, you know, we have to keep the plot moving. Very, very closely based on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in the structure of we go to the house, and as we go throughout the day we never come back to the same location until we get back to the house.
JC: Yeah. It’s interesting that you mentioned Ferris Bueller, ‘cause I remember they put a blurb from Gene Siskel saying, “This is better than Ferris Bueller” on the newspaper ad.
KC: Awesome. Well, Ferris Bueller was absolutely a direct inspiration to David Simkins [the screenwriter]. He admitted it as such, and I don’t remember exactly his quote, but he was like, “I’m going to put a fancy restaurant scene”: there’s a French restaurant scene in Ferris and there’s a French restaurant scene in Adventures in Babysitting.
So he definitely borrowed, or liberated, the story structure for Adventures in Babysitting, which probably went into production six months after Ferris Bueller was released. So I think it was a direct inspiration.
And then also trust me, to have anyone say Adventures in Babysitting and Ferris Bueller in the same breath is killer, it’s awesome. I can’t even believe, you know.
JC: Especially from one of the few critics that everybody knows.
KC: Right. We want those thumbs up. We got a zero from – oh god, who gave us a zero? We got a zero and then on another one we got a -1.
KC: And it was for the rainbow gang and the inherent racism and the White flight and the inner-city share and all. And I’m like, “Relax. We addressed all these issues. We’re making it fun.” You know, “These kids are overly worried about this situation.”
Oh, oh, and that was another thing: when I made the movie I thought that those are the issues, race, economy, you know, income levels, class. Here we’re coming from the suburbs and we’re going into the big city. But I’ve grown up a lot, I’m 41 years old, and seeing the movie recently, I go, “It’s not about that at all.” It’s about leaving sanity and coming into insanity. Every character they confront is absolutely crazy. They’re off their rocker; they’re not norm. You just happen to kind of get into this zaniness. And it turns out about how crazy everybody is, not about any of those other issues that people might’ve brought up in reviews.
JC: I could not have predicted that your buddy, Anthony Rapp, would become the lead guy in Rent about eight or nine years later.
KC: Rent was singularly made for him almost, because he was not only in musical theater, he had starred on Broadway in The Little Prince. It didn’t open, but he was the Little Prince in The Little Prince. On Broadway, I went and saw Anthony in Six Degrees of Separation.
And this was around the time we were shooting, but he had already had this past in musical theater and comedy and really theater, and that’s the love for theater and a desire to be on Broadway. And mine was to be in the big – be in the pictures and be on Broadway. So I saw that when we were 17, 16 years old, when we were making that. I saw that in Anthony; I knew absolutely that – and it was no surprise at all and it was just as natural as anything. It was absolutely meant to be for Anthony; that was a great, great part; great run. And, you know, nobody can be Mark but Anthony.
JC: It’s interesting that you mentioned you were an only child, because you really are capable of setting up this brother/sister chemistry in film. First with Maia Brewton in Adventures in Babysitting, then with Christina Applegate in Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead. You even have a grandfather/grandson chemistry with Lloyd Bridges in Cousins.
KC: That’s really cool. I think they would find those things in casting, and it’s how you could maybe pull something out of somebody else. I heard a rumor that I wasn’t necessarily the greatest Mitch in Cousins, but Ted Danson was on when I did my scenes with him. They said, “Something about your relationship is bringing something out of Ted,” and I was cast to support him. And I think I’m really comfortable with being a character actor, and more – I think of it more as a supporting actor, support the other characters, support the plot, support the story, and I know my role in that.
Given the lead is a big burden on shoulders and you get overwhelmed, you don’t have that time to plan on how to steal a scene or create a moment; it’s just kind of like it’s coming at you and you ‘re just out there kind of being. It’s a much bigger challenge to be a lead.
JC: You have chemistry with Jon Cryer in your next film after Adventures in Babysitting, Hiding Out. You really capture what it was like being a 16-year-old whose biggest concern in the world was to pass the road test, so you can legally drive your date around and you think the concern is similar to the real life/death situation that Jon is dealing with.
KC: That was really fun. It was great to be a supporting character, but to have your own kind of side plots. I get the girl, I get the license to impress the girl. And also I’m much different than Jon, but I don’t have the experience, I’m in my hormonal adolescence and he’s an adult already.
Bob Giraldi is the director and I hate to say this but his epitaph will be “He set Michael Jackson’s hair on fire.” But Bob had that music video rhythm and used lots of music. And did you know that three of the songs in Hiding Out [Click here to watch the trailer for Hiding Out] hit the charts?
JC: I know “Catch Me I’m Falling” by Jade Sterling.
KC: Yeah. And “Crying” with Roy Orbison, the remake, which introduced a great artist to everybody. The music video for “Catch Me I’m Falling”, is, I think one of the only music videos I’ve ever been in. Oh my god, there I am, I could see my arm. It was really fun and Hiding Out had a great premiere in Westwood with a marching band and lights and limos. That was really cool for this little picture.
Jon was such a professional and I had done a good interview prior trying to explain how in awe I was because here he is doing the lead, here he’s playing several characters almost, ‘cause he’s got to be Andy, Andrew, you know, Maxwell and all this stuff. And he’s doing it with such aplomb, he’s doing it with such grace and creativity and charm. I’m like, “Where are you finding the time? I’m exhausted and working maybe 12-14 hour days, you’re working like 16 hours a day.” I have great respect for Jon. He absolutely rises to the occasion. I would’ve been overwhelmed in his situation.
But you know, with Jon, it’s like Christina Applegate or Elisabeth Shue, it’s totally about the work when we get there. There’s no, “Oh my god, you were Ducky.” Just like, “You are Andrew and how do we work this scene.” And I think that comes from people that aren’t green, that aren’t new, they are just here for the work. So I have worked with really great folks and I’ve worked with people like Lloyd Bridges or Jon Cryer or Christina Applegate, Elisabeth Shue, who all are very such professionals and they’ve got it.
JC: After Hiding Out, you would have your first leading role.
KC: It was Under the Boardwalk. It’s funny, it was billed as kind of a leading role and credited as a leading role and paid as a leading role, but I was just a narrator. I was literally a character that doesn’t exist in Romeo & Juliet. So they kind of invented this narrator-ish character to see Southern California in the ‘80s to tell this Romeo & Juliet-like story. I am really proud of Under the Boardwalk; it’s one of the last New World pictures. New World has now changed into some of the other different production companies, but elements of that still exist today. Actually, I think New World had Adventures in Babysitting there for a while, and then through the film went to Touchstone.
So Under the Boardwalk was kind of the first film I had it on my shoulders, but immediately apparent is that I’m scattered throughout the scene, kind of narrating or helping introduce the audience and characters.
Under the Boardwalk poster
I had to look at every other actor on the set and go, “I know. Guys, I know it’s because I just did Adventures in Babysitting. I know. We can move past that now because I know,” and they’re like, “Okay, it’s cool.” So I never had any animosity; nobody hated me for getting top billing or getting the money or getting the whatever.
It was also recast. We shot one week and they fired the director, they fired the actors that were supposed to play the Romeo and Juliet leads, they fired every other single person in the movie but me.
JC: What? How the hell did the film get finished?
KC: They went on a one-week hiatus and came back with a new director, Fritz Kiersch. Fritz Kiersch is known for finishing Children of the Corn in four weeks and they said, “We know he can put this in a can.” And he came back, here we are on the set again, shooting the same stuff we were shooting a week ago, ‘cause they couldn’t use any of it. And he did it, he nailed that movie, got it in the can.
It was really crazy. Actually, when I was in TV, I saw the cast change on the Apple Dumpling Gang series that turned into Gunshy. They replaced everybody, including me. They recast me with Adam Rich from Eight is Enough. I was like, “Oh okay, well, you know, I understand. I mean, gosh, you know, it’s Adam Rich of Eight is Enough, it’s a much bigger deal.”
So two weeks into shooting Adam Rich is growing stubble on his chin and really can’t convincingly play a 12-year-old or whatever it was, and they fire Adam Rich after two episodes. So not only have they replaced all the cast, then they replace him again. So I show up for a table reading, they go, “By the way, we’ve got four more left in the order, so you’re going to be on, Keith, and you – I’ll give you your old part back.” So this is what it’s like working for Disney. And you know I love Disney; I’m kidding.
I’ve been fired off of Gimme a Break. I got an episode of Gimme a Break, I was supposed to kiss Samantha, and I was too short, the casting director saying, “She towers over you.” And I actually saw my replacement as I’m leaving the studio, I saw him walking in. He was also at the call-back, uh-oh. Got home and there was a, you know, message, “Don’t bother showing up to work tomorrow.” No. That hurt.
I’ve been fired off more jobs than some people have had. But that’s the nature of the work when you’ve done 100 projects or whatever. Here, I sound like I’m bragging, but I’m trying not to, because experience is crazy. I’m trying to share with you how really insane it is.
JC: After Under the Boardwalk, you would be the lead in Cheetah along with Lucy Deakins.
Keith and Cheetah in Cheetah
KC: I did get first billing for Cheetah, and that was part of a three-picture deal with Adventures in Babysitting. At that time Touchstone was signing every single actor that appeared in their movies to three-picture deals; Richard Dreyfuss, Bette Midler, everybody got the three-picture deal.
The second picture was coming up. And here I am, auditioning for two movies, Cheetah and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. I’m going down to the wire on Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. I am screen testing other actresses for Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Okay? I’m like, “Okay, I think I’ve got it at this point.”
So the offer comes in and it’s six months in Mexico at their new stages and everything where they shot Total Recall. It was a huge – they built all these huge miniatures and there were huge sets, so you’re a miniature and everything. And it’s the x amount of money that it would’ve been for the second picture in the three-picture Disney deal. Six months, x amount of money.
Oh, Cheetah, I get an offer for Cheetah. Hey, it’s five weeks in Africa, 30 days, same x amount of money. Okay. And lead role. So, okay, I took Cheetah. I went and I took Cheetah. I thought I was really proud of our little $1.5 million movie that was sold as a negative pickup to Disney for $3 million and it made $10 million at the box office. Super happy with the results.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids made over $100 million. Name the guy that played the guy that was in love with the girl in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
JC: Okay, I see your point.
KC: Maybe I made a good choice, I don’t know. But I could’ve been dwarfed by huge picture, paying me minimum wage for the six months. You know what I mean? So doing a shorter timeframe of a picture, lead billing, the same amount of money, I have yet to do the third picture for Disney. [Laughter]
JC: Did you really eat the termites in Cheetah?
KC: Yes, ‘cause they were made of Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum and rice paper.
JC: Oh, well.
KC: I can’t believe we got you. I can’t believe we got you on that, ‘cause I’m looking at it, holding it in my hand and going, “This does not look like a termite,” or like, you know, they’re giant termites, which are really big. But that’s cool. That’s cool you bought it.
JC: Well, then again, I was watching Cheetah on my computer; I wasn’t looking at one of my bigger screens.
KC: So true. But we really did roll around in dirt. We really did jump and run and fall and get cut and get mud all over it, whatever it was. We really walked in the water with a hippopotamus, you know, 40 feet from us. They just brought us over and they did some really crazy editing with the elephant stampede; we never saw an elephant. They were using our doubles and putting the camera as a POV of the elephant on top of a Range Rover, and as the Range Rover is kind of bouncing back and forth as it’s following and they’re way up on top of the Range Rover shooting down, it looks like the POV of the elephant.
But we have a lot of interaction with every other animal. Right off I touched a rhinoceros, you know. Really I mean what an experience to go to Africa and feed zebras and gazelles and cheetahs. Of course the cheetahs were imported from the San Fernando Valley. Can’t use wild cheetahs, so we had trained cheetahs flown out. They were great cats. My co-star Lucy Deakins is horribly allergic to cats. If a cat touched her, licked her, whatever, she swelled up and it was awful, but a real trooper. She absolutely put up with so much. Poor Lucy. I loved it.
JC: Interesting she would agree to a cat picture given that she has such terrible allergies.
Cousins was also done the same year.
KC: People ask me, “Alright. What was your favorite movie? I’m like, “Oh god, I’m torn with this.” And then they’re like, “Alright, what was your favorite movie to work on?” And I said, “I think it’s Cousins.” [To see a trailer for Cousins, click here.]
Joel [Schumacher] is such an amazing director and loves what he does and loved us so much we felt it, that it may have been closer to me than anything I’ve done. Which, you know, it’s funny, my last – my birth name is Mitchell, so here I am, playing Mitch. I don’t wear that kind of fashion, I don’t listen to that kind of music or anything, but something about him when I was with Ted, or when I was around with Grandpa was, I don’t know, I just, I felt really, I felt kind of as an adult too; I was starting to get, I was about 19 or 20 I think when I shot Cousins. I was starting to mature, I was starting to have a little more self-confidence and really enjoyed pushing the buttons of, you know, the Grandma: I’m going to, like, put her in the grave, I’m like trying to threaten her with a knife. I loved, you know, the wedding video stuff, I loved the stuff with Lloyd Bridges and talking about, you know, having snacks or whatever with Lloyd Bridges was - was just so awesome.
I mean here he is, sitting here working with Lloyd Bridges, the camera is 35 feet away, across the room on a really long lens. So it’s eavesdropping, and this is Joel’s thing; he’s like, “I want to eavesdrop on these families for an hour-and-a-half.” So he always put the camera really far away and would shoot and barrel the lens down to kind of be, you know, be kind of you’re sneaking and you’re watching these people. ‘Cause this is also – I developed a great friendship with Sean [Young], who subsequently came and rescued me on a later movie, Forever: A Ghost of a Love Story.
JC: That same year, you got to be on the Oscars doing a musical number. [Click here to watch Keith’s Oscar appearance with 18 other guests in a 9-minute musical number.]
KC: Yes, “I’m going to be an Oscar winner.” Corey Feldman was there at the number. Christian Slater was there, Patrick Dempsey, Rikki Lake and Crispin Glover. It was like 18 of us and, it was ridiculous. At the same time, it was awesome and it was at the Oscars and I got it because of Cousins.
So I did Cousins and I have this dancing scene with Lloyd Bridges. So I’m promoting Cousins, I go on one of those shows, promoting the movie. So Kenny Ortega was watching that, or someone was watching that and said, “Hey, he can dance and he’s Jackie Coogan’s grandson,” and boom, I was in this number. Ridiculous.
That was really fun. Weeks and weeks of rehearsal, got to know everybody really well. I loved Ricki Lake. I was really kind of a fan, so it was like, “Oh god, that’s Christian Slater. Oh my god, there’s Corey Feldman.” And you know, getting the spotlight and getting the focus is quite amazing. There I was at the Oscars, got to sit there, and here I am, performing live in front of the – at that time they opened it up to the Eastern Bloc, so more people – there’s like a billion people, like more people watching this than had ever watched anything before live. No pressure, right? And I got to go and do a thing down the runway in one of the numbers and do a flip and then like something, I look up and there’s Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep. It was totally surreal.
JC: I know they were the same year, Toy Soldiers and Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, but I’m not sure which one came out first.
KC: I will tell you, we shot Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead first and then right after shot Toy Soldiers, but they released them opposite; they released Toy Soldiers first and then released Don’t Tell Mom afterwards.
And I accept playing Kenny in Don’t Tell Mom. I accept “Dishes are done,” that’s great. However, I’m really trying to do something more substantial for humanity than “The dishes are done, man.” [See Keith’s most famous scene here.]
Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead DVD cover
JC: How much of Kenny came from you personally and how much came from the script?
KC: Almost none. I mean I’m Kenneth [the mature version of Kenny]. I am Kenneth. And so to be Kenny was a complete affectation; a wig, a costume, a voice, a walk, a complete – and I was afraid of it turning into a caricature. I didn’t want it to be following a cardboard cutout or something. Inspirations such as Keanu Reeves in Bill and Ted, Sean Penn in Fast Times at Ridgemont High – actually I would actually say a lot of Bill and Ted, because Don’t Tell Mom was directed by the same guy who directed Bill and Ted, Steve Herek. Herek’s direction to me was more troglodyte, more like – more base, just more exist, breathe, be very selfish.
At the same time, I didn’t want to promote drug and alcohol use, I didn’t want to do certain things, you know, violence against women, all that kind of thing, that I would rather choose to do pictures that, you know, didn’t go there or didn’t exploit or anything like that. So when the opportunity came to do Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, the story of the heavy metal Guns N Roses stoner that turns into a gourmet chef and gets productive and puts that down and says, “There’s a future doing something else,” and if that message sticks then great. So I totally did it and I worked as hard as I could to make Kenny before the transition as unattractive as I could. He gets out of prep, he’s, “Oh, I don’t care, dude.” So I really, and it was great being Kenny, it was a complete character to jump into. But the wig and the, you know, not really makeup, but the wig itself; we used makeup ‘cause it’s a lace wig and they used this stuff to put it on and, you know, you have to be careful all day, and it’s 130° in Valencia and you’re wearing this mop on your head. I did more hair and makeup than Christina Applegate.
And I had to know that the company had given the faith in me to be Kenny. I’m straightedge, dude, I mean the biggest geek: didn’t smoke weed, didn’t drink, didn’t get a fake ID, didn’t go to clubs. You know what I mean? It’s like I went and I work. The opportunity to be Kenny was just awesome. I really took to it, I loved it.
As for “The dishes are done”, I had looked at a copy of my script and it says, “Kenny is standing on the roof with his friends, shooting the dishes.” There’s no dialogue in it. I don’t know, if I, the director or the screenwriter came up with it, but it was in the trailer and that’s why everyone remembers it. You don’t even have to have seen the movie to know “The dishes are done,” and who likes doing the dishes?
KC: One of the things that everybody can relate to.
As for Kenny, I didn’t hear from people going, “Yeah, rock on. Party dude,” I heard from people, “Yes, I was a stoner. I was a wastoid, a loser. I talked it over with my mom and I became – I joined the Culinary Academy and I became a gourmet chef and I work in a five-star restaurant in Tampa,” and I’m like, “Are you serious?” Like not just one; several people have said that to me. So I’m extremely happy with the impact Kenny and that story and all that stuff.
It worked. And to get those kinds of things from people that are like that affected me and I turned myself around. I sound like a prick right now, but that really was cool. And, you know, it has an effect. A silly movie, a silly summer movie escapist fare, but it might’ve turned someone’s life around. I thought, “God, I didn’t think it would ever have that impact.”
JC: Let’s talk about Toy Soliders.
KC: That was great. I loved Toy Soldiers. [Click here to watch the trailer.] It was a big project at the time because everyone wanted to be on it. I mean you’re like, “Dude, this is going to be like a Taps or going to be like a, you know, good action movie” and this was something I really, really wanted. I got the part first. Lou Gossett, I think, was second.
Okay, they invited me to come in and read with everybody else. For the first time in my career, I sat on the other side of the table during the casting process. It shocked me to the core. I did not know – I did not know how commoditized actors are. I did not know what they say about you before you come in the room, after you are in the room. I didn’t know how you look as an actor when you come in to audition.
So here I am on the other side of the table with confidence, I’ve got the part already, and I’m reading everybody for their respective roles. And I’m reading the Lou Gossett parts for everybody that’s trying out for Billy Tepper. Here comes my buddy Sean[Astin], and I’ve known Sean, you know, his father worked with my grandfather.
JC: He did?
KC: Yes , we’ve been friends for years. He’s like a brother. So here’s Sean. I’m like okay. And I don’t know if I was trying to give more or not or what, maybe I didn’t do anything different, but Sean brought it. He brought it. He was Billy. There’s nobody else that’s Billy. And he was on fire; he nailed it.
So how it went down – and we still did some mixing and matching with the guides, and so like they’re sitting at a table and yeah, there’s Wil Wheaton and Sean Astin and me, but there’s also eight other guys and we don’t know who’s going to be the five. But that was kind of stressful.
So I think I was – you know, made friends with the director, Dan Petrie, Jr. really and then got the offer. Dan Petrie wrote Beverly Hills Cop and he wrote The Big Easy. You know, Dan was huge into Disney and all that stuff. He was just massively like powerful and creative and productive. He was a good friend to have. And I maintained a friendship with Dan Petrie, Jr. for years after Toy Soldiers. A few years later, he brought me back for a nice one-day bid on In the Army Now. We played poker games and, you know, met so many great people through him that I’ve also gotten work and worked with them.
I mean – okay, if I can tell you who was at these poker games. Dude, I’m sitting at a table with people that are like, “Yeah, I don’t know how to make Hannibal Lecter do this. I don’t know how to make – should I – I want to shoot phone booths – or not phone booths, but something so similar to that.” And you’re sitting, you’re in a room with the people that can pick up the phone and get $25 million to make a picture. You’re just buddies with them; you’re just poker buddies with them. So guys, Disney executives, writers, agents, that I used to play poker with, if you’re holding any of my markers, they’re good. Please come talk to me and I want to talk to you too.
JC: One thing I have to bring up on Toy Soliders is there a huge thread on your underwear scenes.
KC: Ah, yes. Okay, a side note on that. When you’re making a movie you don’t necessarily see the forest for the trees, okay? So here we are, we’re five, six, seven guys, ‘cause there’s the five main guys plus the other guy, Yogurt. I loved Yogurt, and Shawn Phelan passed away unfortunately. And Shawn was great; we loved him. We named him Yogurt in the van on the way to the set. He’s constantly striving for attention, “Oh guys, look at me,” this and that. Well, he opened his yogurt in the van on the way to the set and it blew up on him. We’re like, “Dude, your name’s Yogurt now.” And they changed the script, and so we put it in the script, he’s Yogurt.
Yeah, where was I?
JC: I said, you know on IMDB there’s a huge thread on the message board of Toy Soliders that talks about the underwear scenes. I hate to break it to you, but it’s the longest thread on the Toy Soliders message board.
KC: It’s just kind of – oh god, I love how you put it, “The longest thread on the Toy Soldiers message board.” The longest thread on there. So I have actually gotten quite a bit of fan mail from that scene or from those scenes. So here’s the thing, we’re supposed to be guys in a room with no electricity, no heat, no air, no whatever, and it’s five of us – seven of us in a room that’s supposed to bunk two. It was hot. It’s Virginia. So we’re like, “All right, everyone’s going to be in like wife beaters and your boxers, your underwear,” whatever. Well we also made character choices, and I made a character choice that Snuffy Bradberry wore corduroys, deck shoes, and tighty whities. Some are going to wear black, others got boxers, and everyone’s got to have their own character, so my choice was tighty whities.
Well, because of that choice there’s nothing there, there’s nothing added, I’m not stuffing or anything like that. I’m not horribly excited about messing with Wil Wheaton either, I didn’t get turned on by that, but in that scene I look like I’m packing. Something’s up there. I don’t know, it does look like I’m rather well-hung. That could be real or that could be the appearance. But yes, that scene, they’re like, “God,” everyone’s – and then they’re like, “Keith, you’ve got quite a bulge there.”
So that, yeah, I’ve gotten a little bit of fan mail from that. We were unaware of any homoerotic, you know, indications or anything like that, but I have a good gay fan base and they certainly cite that scene; they’re like, “You look yummy in Toy Soldiers.” Thank you very much, so buy a ticket.
JC: Now comes the E! True Hollywood Story question: 1991 would be your last year doing studio films. In your own words why did you think that was your last?
KC: I got into a fight with my agent over the billing for Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, and my agent was Harry Gold. We’d worked together for many years and then I’d left him, and I’d come back to Harry, and under Harry I got Adventures of Babysitting, Hiding Out, Under the Boardwalk, etc.
So we get to Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead and Harry tells me, this is allegedly and this is only because of my memory, so I may not recollect it correctly, but Harry says, “You got the billing, you got ‘and as’, you got ‘and Keith Coogan as Kenny Crandall.’” Actually, originally I had second billing. They have your second billing, great. But they said, “No, you don’t have second billing. We want to give it to Joanna Cassidy.” And it’s producer’s discretion. You can always change billing, unless it’s really signed in the contract. I said, “My contract said I had second billing,” and they go, “Well, the, you know, consolation prize, we’ll give you ‘and Keith Coogan as Kenny.’” I’m like, “That’s great. I love it. That’s great.” Harry Gold told me I had, “And Keith Coogan as Kenny.”
It’s a fine line and it’s about pride, and I think I made a really bad decision. I spoke out, I was like, “Dude, it says ‘and Keith Coogan as Kenny.’” I got the billing; I got last billing, I got “with Josh Charles and Keith Coogan,” but I didn’t get “and Keith Coogan as Kenny.” I was really upset about that because I was told by my representation that that had been given to me as a consolation prize for not having second billing, which they gave Joanna Cassidy.
So this is a dumb 20-year-old that fired his agent, and that was it. I didn’t get an effective agent after that, and wallowed in a B-movie after that. Not that I’m not happy with that, but you know, the money from mainstream movies. You know, it also might’ve been a little oversaturation: Book of Love, Toy Soldiers, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead all within a few months of each other. But three studio pictures in ’91 and then it dropped off the cliff.
But, you know, you do some theater, yay. I’m going to write something; I’m going to do this. And you’ve got to make a living; residuals only last so long, so you go, “All right, what – how and what way can I survive and do this to stay in the industry and still do it?” Because my grandfather did it from the time he was 4 years old until the time he died at 69. I hope – I’m trying to take care of myself a little better than Jackie and I hope that I live a little longer than him, but he did a lot of like drinking in the war, in World War II, and he kind of shot his kidneys out. So I’m hoping not to have the health issues he had. And I’m hoping to have a little bit longer life than my grandfather. Just noticed that that’s what happened and like, “Okay, I can take care of myself.”
But I hope I work for the rest of my life too. This is what I love to do. I mean it’s like, you know, it’s oxygen for me. So the toughest thing, and I have to be honest, the toughest thing is when people say, “So what happened?” or “Why aren’t you working?” And sometimes they can say it in a loaded way, they can ask, “Oh, what are you doing now?” but they can say it in a loaded way. And it’s tough, you have to take the reality of it, you have to go, “You know, this is what happens. I don’t know. I don’t know. Sometimes you don’t work, sometimes you do.”
And then I have to trust that if something comes along, you know, for whatever reasons or however things fall into place, you get what you’re right for and you get what you’re supposed to do. And I really hope I can do something that’s beyond Kenny and Don’t Tell Mom. That is the one I’m singularly most recognized for, Adventures in Babysitting is second, and then sometimes other pictures.
And what’s really great now, though, is a lot of the executives are very young, a lot of the casting is very young right now, and they are people that were raised on these movies. They’re like, “Oh my god, Keith.” So it’s about visibility, staying out there, staying positive, A to Z, and being ready to work, what I’ve been doing. And you know what, I’ve had more work since ’91 than most actors.
JC: Your first movie after your studio days was Forever: A Ghost Of A Love Story. A few years ago you played Sean Young’s stepson in Cousins and now you’re her lover.
Forever cover art
KC: Yeah, and Sally Kirkland’s lover. And boy, was I in over my head. That was a last-minute turndown by another actor that’s about my age that’s been working about as long that I may have mentioned earlier in the interview.
JC: Corey Feldman.
KC: I didn’t say that. So let’s say that this other actor got right up to the wire, they’re going to shoot Monday, and this other actor say drops out on a Friday. This other actor may have had a lot more brains that I did, ‘cause I did this movie and I did it for the money. They came at me on a Friday and said, “Will you – here, this is” and it was a good, good amount, “Now will you come on and do this picture?” And I was not right for the film. I was not right for it; I didn’t know how to pull it off. It was an 18-day shoot with effects and this, and I learned so much on working. I learned never, ever, ever, ever do anything just for the money.
But one door closes, another one opens. I got to work with Sally Kirkland, the most in-the-moment improvisational living present actress I’d ever worked with, and Sean also carries a lot of that too. But Sean is more professional than anyone will ever, ever know or give her credit for. She unfortunately is a strong woman in the industry and she’s worked with some strong men, like Oliver Stone and Charlie Sheen, and she’s gotten a reputation from loud mouths. And once you’ve actually sat on a set and worked with Sean Young – and yeah, she may be like, “Oh, watch me on The Tonight Show” and we’ll have a little bit of longer lunch ‘cause we’re watching this clip, but she also gets us out early from work the same day. So, you know, where do you draw that line?
Yeah, everyone could have a little peccadillo or something like that, but when I see someone get treated so horribly by the industry, get such a reputation that I felt was undeserved, especially when I’m sitting here working on this movie and they have someone drop out or something, and, like, we don’t have the Mary Miles Minter yet. This is about William Desmond Taylor and Mabel Normand and everything. So also they told me, “Oh, by the way, Sean’s going to do it.” “Oh, that’s great.” It was like, as soon as Sally Kirkland finished then like Sean came on. They never worked together.
So I hear from Sean, she goes, “Yeah, I was sitting at home and they were five scripts in front of me and this script was calling me.” And I said, “You came and rescued my butt.” She really did; she came in and we banged out the picture and I think it’s okay. We got shut down in mid-production. We’re in a neighborhood, shooting in a house, the haunted house, which was really a haunted house, it really had murders in it. Oh, this was big, crazy, things going on, sounds not showing up on film. I’m serious, okay.
One of the neighbors had had it with the trucks, the craft service and the parking and called the fire department. Fire department, “Permit.” “Yeah, we’re going to find it.” “Shut it down for the night.” Well, the cost. It’s going to be a whole night’s shoot. It’s like 9:00 at night. So we shut down, we went to a bar, we’re all talking about what the hell we can do and get this picture done.
We ran to the Van Nuys Airport the next day and wrote a scene, the director wasn’t even on the set. Me and Sean wrote this great scene in a hangar with this old plane, talking about movies and Hollywood and passion. I’m talking about The Exorcist, which is one of my favorite movies. And we wrote this scene – Sean pretty much wrote this scene, and it’s a good scene. But Forever, to me it’s always a painful experience anytime talking about Forever because I feel that I let everybody down. If I had just had a different attitude about it and really embraced it, but so many things were throwing me off and it wasn’t what I was used to and, you know. So I make no excuses, but I also I know that I learned a lot on it and I also know that I won’t ever make a decision that puts myself in an uncomfortable position again. But I’m still proud of the film. Hey, we got it out there, so that’s important.
JC: The only other films I saw that you made after Don’t Tell Mom was Forever and Ivory Tower.
KC: Oh, Ivory Tower, that’s pretty good. I liked that movie. And I also love A Reason to Believe. I love The Power Within. I did my karate movie, I did my snake movie, I’ve done all these, like, genres; I’ve now touched each one.
I want to talk about the snake movie Python. So get this movie, it’s with Robert Englund and Jenny McCarthy and Wil Wheaton and Frayne Rosanoff and all these great – I was like, “Oh my god, there’s,” you know, all these guys that, Casper Van Dien, Billy Zabka, and I’m like, “Oh my god, this is such a great film. We’re having so much fun doing it and shooting it.”
Python DVD Cover Art
Well, you see the technical issue with the snake that didn’t quite work out. The effects were not good. But, you know, the movie seemed fun and it’s like we’re not really trying to create this scary 130-foot snake, it just felt like a fun mess. And I think it really worked, it’s the fun, pop it in, you know, have a drink, kick back, you know, we’re going to take you away from your troubles. So what’s great about the Python DVD is they got the director, and he openly admits this is not a great movie and he’ll tell you about the troubles. His commentary is one of the most frank, honest – and he’s not bitter. He’s not blaming, he’s like, “Here’s what we ran into and how we got out of it.” And it’s a really good look at how having no money, you know, you try to find solutions to problems. So Python is a behind-the-scenes where we never hear something like this. Do DVD or rent on Netflix or whatever you can.
JC: Right. I’ll keep it in mind, ‘cause those type of commentaries are usually my favorite.
KC: It is hysterical. Richard – wait, what was the director’s name? Richard Clabaugh, that’s right. And his website actually has a great essay on working on Python.
I absolutely should not have dropped Harry Gold. I’ve subsequently apologized; I’ve tried to approach him again. He’s like, “Well, I’m not in charge anymore. You’ve got to send a reel over to my partner.” Really, Harry, you’re going to play it like that? All right, I’ll go work on getting a reel together.
So I’ve been doing things like, let’s see, I’ve been writing my own roles, and doing a monologue project, putting up – I put up 192 like one-minute monologues; everything, Shakespeare, comedy, drama, whatever. I’m signatory. I can’t do my monologues without being signatory with SAG. The moment you affect a voice or a character or say dialogue from something you’re completely union. I was like, “Really? I can’t turn a camera on myself?” They go, “Nope, you have to sign a contract.” So I did – and I got a green light and I’ve been running with it ever since.
JC: Right. I did see the Rebecca Black “Friday” one, where you give a William Shatner-like reading of that. [Click here to watch that.]
KC: I took a nice break after that. I wanted to let that get some views and hit – and be a part of that weird Internet meme.
I did a web series called Crafty which is great behind the scenes of craft service. We shot some, ten episodes of a Web series that’s being sold right now, we’re working on it. Cats Dancing on Jupiter, I play a child molester-
KC: I am in a short film for the 4kfest: Delia. Delia is online right now. If you go to http://www.4kfest.com/delia you can watch our 30-minute, absolutely riveting horror comedy short.
I’m using this as a calling card right now, saying, “This is me right now. This is how ready I am to work.” And I’ve even lost a little bit of weight since then, so I look a little better. I talked to an old friend of mine from Book of Love, Chris Young is directing 3-D movies right now, and he did a proof-of-concept short called Dead of Nowhere 3-D, and that’s finished, it’s done and it’s – I haven’t seen it. I haven’t seen the dang thing. They like signed – the big thing, I think the biggest thing that happened, and it really has affected my life the most, was the past with Corey Haim.
JC: I noticed that on the IMDB.
KC: We haven’t shot it yet.
JC: You haven’t shot it yet?
KC: No, but I signed. The producer looked around and my manager said, “They understand you lost Corey, but Keith would like, you know, would like a chance with the project like in his honor, in his meme, etc.” And Corey lived with me for a little while. I did Life 101 with Corey. You kind of inherited him like a hamster and he went home with you. So Corey was a dear friend and I love him and hate him. Everybody says that.
We’re hoping to get the rest of the money together for the film, A Detour in Life. The script is fantastic; it’s a family picture, a father that loses his wife in a horse accident and has to deal with raising his 11-year-old daughter. And he crawls into a bottle and is rescued by actually like a teacher of the daughter, and has a love interest with her that then pulls him out. And it’s a really rich script, and it was going to be a great – it was going to be this directorial debut for Corey; he was going to direct the picture as well and play Jay Thomas, the lead. Well, when he passed the producer did not want to give up – the producer still wanted to tell the story.
This is like great for him. So after a long conversation with Tina Brown, the producer of A Detour in Life, and we talked about Corey, we talked about the part and ideas for it, she turned to me and she goes, “You know, Keith, I’m sorry, we only have what we were going to pay Corey.” So, I took it. And it’s more than I’ve ever been paid on a picture. Corey Feldman and Corey Haim had triple the quote that I have, so I signed a pay-or-play deal for $250,000.00 to replace Corey in A Detour in Life. I’m not going to direct. They had a co-director for Corey.
He’s done for me now in a way what I tried to do for him. And it’s – even in passing he somehow – not for me, but I’m saying that that would be tremendous for me, I could make some films, I could do some things on my own. So I’m really hoping that that comes through. Anyone out there that has money and is interested in a family picture – family values; no cussing, no sex, no violence. Well, except for the accident, which is pretty violent. But, life is pretty violent. This is a picture I want to make, and I’m getting paid anyway. But I want to make it; I want the rest of the money to come in for the movie to make it. So I’m really kind of making a plea out there in the name of Corey Haim to honor him and to honor his spirit. We need a little bit of gap financing. We’ve got most of it, but there’s a little bit left. So contact Tina Brown, A Detour in Life, and – but if that happens I think it would be a tremendous honor to Corey.
I was really scared of the part. It’s very emotional and I’m more of a, you know, funny guy. So it’s going to be a really big stretch to me, but I felt Corey saying to me “Keith, you’re going to do great” and he’s like, “I’m in a good place right now.” I really felt him. He picked me, he’s like, “This has got to get done.” And he let me know that he’s in a good place and he’s really happy right now. So that was, you know – try to make me look like not a total fucking crybaby, okay?
JC: Okay, I won’t. But if there’s any motive I want to give you in doing the film. This past Oscars didn’t--
KC: Oh, I want to stop you right there. I want to stop you right there. Academy members honor Academy members, and Corey was not a member of the Academy. I just wanted to stop you right there. They also forgot Brad Renfro. And so it’s not, I don’t want to say that, “Oh, he shouldn’t have been in there” or anything like that; I just want to say that he has to be a member of the Academy. He has to be invited in or he has to be nominated in.
To be in the academy, you have to get nominated by two sitting members. You have to take a vote on it. You have to have at least three pictures over two years or a note. And there’s all these things. If you are nominated you are in. And my two were two of my friends’ dads; I’m like, “I’m going to go for John Astin and Gary Busey. Sean, Jake, your dads need to nominate me into the Academy.” And this was around, you know, after Adventures in Babysitting, it was kind of around the Don’t Tell Mom/Toy Soldiers time. I was like, “I’m going to ask. I’ve got those three pictures. I’ve got, you know, all these things. I can have people nominate me.” I didn’t do it, I was like, you know, I don’t know what benefit I’m going to get to become a member of the Academy. Someday. Who knows? I’ll just keep working at it. And at the moment I’m working on something that has nothing to do with thinking about the award, you know.
The question for me is why am I not working? If I appear like a, you know, a sober, happy, healthy adult and I did make it past a former childhood in my days. I mean movies are even from adolescence on and I was 20, 21 doing them. So it’s good in that mold of you’re a child actor and now, you know, “What are you doing?”
What do I do? It’s a guy trying to do this. So I found that you cannot fit and wait for parts, you can’t fit – oh, the offers dry up. You know, whatever, it’s cyclical. So you have to make your own stuff. You have to put your own stuff together. True?
Right? And working with some friends who are putting some stuff together. Brian Krause, he came to me with a film. He says, “This is going the end of June,” and great part, great script, basically a Big Chill for people in their 40s today. And so it’s a contemporized version of The Big Chill-ish, it’s ish, like that.
And, you know, I’m stoked. I’m stoked to support someone who is “Put your own money behind it, make the product, sell it.” You know, we’re in the business of making movies as well as being an artist, and so that’s the direction I’m in right now. I’m forming production companies, writing scripts, you know, working with other writers on their stuff, and it’s going to be tradeoff. Give me some story notes, I’ll give you some story notes. When I did Delia, I met the guy with the camera package, and we said to each other, “Hey, I’ll support you on this if you support me on this.”
And so that – and really I noticed in the last five years or so, anything that I have done has been because of networking and has been because of people that I know or people that I’ve talked with or approached. I maintained a personal relationship with people. And until you get hot and on fire and huge box office or something, nothing really comes to you. You’ve got to make, you know, you’ve got to make your own way, I guess, as it is.
So that’s kind of the thing in itself, to kind of change that attitude and that mindset of, “I’m a hired gun. I’m a mercenary,” to more of like “Through my will I’ll get it done.” I’ve got to turn into a little more Napoleon Bonaparte.
JC: I really admire your indefatigable persistence. You weathered the storm a lot better than other actors in your situation.
KC: Thank you. Thank you. You know, I think I just kind of pull myself. I just go, “You know, this is something I’m always going to do.” And yeah, I’ve had a little hit here or there. I haven’t really even started yet. I really consider myself to be at the beginning of my career. And had kind of a weird thing when I was – as a kid. I kind of peaked at like 8 and then I did another peak at like 12 and then another peak at like 17 and another peak at like 22. You know what I mean? And then I had a lot of, after about 29 I guess, 28 or 29 I kind of started working again and I got on some TV shows and I was like, “Okay, I think now” – and they had to see me as an adult, no longer a tween, man-child, boy, adolescent. I had to really mature. And I have a young face; I look a lot younger than I am. So actually I have to hit 50 before I can play 35.
I get really nervous. In front of the camera, on the set, nothing but character, nothing but story, nothing but doing the job, I’m absolutely – my blood pressure comes down, my pulse rate slows down; I’m at home in front of the camera. But the audition, “Hi” – I’m like, “please give me the job. You know, it’s like I feel desperate, it’s like I really do want it. Somewhere in me might have been that I didn’t feel like I deserved it. You can’t feel too deserving.” But I have a lot of fans on Facebook and it’s great; it’s great to have a fan base and it’s great to have people rooting for you. They go, “Oh, we want to see you on the big screen again.” That’s great. That’s a great feeling. So absolutely pick it up and put it in my back pocket and calm down the next time I have a big audition
And so, and I love the opportunity; thank you for the soapbox to preach on.