HELLO AMERICA!—Director, writer, producer Gerald Gordon is very excited about his latest film "Shazam and the Lost Path." It has "Tarzan" and all of his muscle buddies who will keep you laughing the whole time watching the film. When asked why this kind of motion picture, Gordon answered, "I love Mel Brooks and how he makes an audience laugh, and it’s why I believe people look forward to viewing what he does as an actor, writer, director or producer.
MSJ: Your body of work has been enormous through the years. What made you lean towards this kind of film?
GG: Well, I’ll give you some background. The score has been written by Bruce Buckingham, a long time close friend and employee. He was the piano conductor for a number of my past projects: the west coast premiere of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" starring "Citizen Kane’s" leading lady Ruth Warrick; he wrote the film score for my film "So Long Blue Boy" that sits on a shelf in Hollywood because the producer wouldn’t pay the final fee to the lab CFI. Bruce led my orchestra and played at Mayfair Music Hall while I was artistic director. I love his work in this film. He also edited the "Shazam" film and we worked closely together. And it was tough at times because we had to work through SKYPE as he lives in Kent, Washington, and I’m here in Vegas.
MSJ: Was the film something you had always wanted to do as a director?
GG: No. The film came about totally unplanned. You see, I had taught an exceptional acting class with many students featured or starring players in the various Vegas strip shows. They wanted another class, a more advanced one and I said NO CLASS-I’M TIRED. Suddenly, one of the students, a leading player from Cirque’s show "O" said, "Then write us a film." I laughed and forgot about it.
Then weeks later, I was watching TCM and there were three Tarzan films that day. I wasn’t feeling great so I reminisced about watching them when I was young kid. I began laughing, as they weren’t meant to be funny, but I just couldn’t believe how seriously I had taken them earlier in my life.
The films always would depict black natives deep in the African wilderness, but possessing treasures of one kind or another. The white treasure hunters invading these areas in the hopes of getting some, if not all of the treasure. Then there always was a white man, a renegade who has made a deal with the "savages" to screw the white treasure hunters and get the goodies for himself.
I then thought of my previous class that happened to have five or six African-Americans in it and thought, wouldn’t it be interesting if I made them the good guys and the white guys the "savages" so called. And since I had a British actor in the group, just to be different. I could make him the renegade that makes a deal with the chief of the white cannibals who is now desperately looking for something different than white meat and thus the plot was born.
MSJ: Then "Shazam" is the Tarzan character?
GG: Yes. He of course is brought in to help the underdog. I didn’t have a chimp to play "Cheeta," but I did have in the class the leading trapeze artist from Cirque’s MYSTERE show. I asked him if he could do front and back flips. Well, he did one right in front of me and that’s how "Meeta" was born. And that’s the film.
MSJ: You took quite a chance casting a group of actors from a class, don’t you think?
GG: I thought it would be fun to do a "little fun film with people I loved." And it was fun, and the class of 15 people turned into a company of 73. Naturally, there were problems raising the money as everyone had to be fed daily during the location shoot, costumes, props and I also needed two animals as well. I wanted a donkey which was the hardest thing to get without having to pay one thousand dollars a day, but we finally found one whose owner was happy with a bale of hay for "Elizabeth" the donkey. You see I was almost totally taken by Omar Sharif’s entrance in "Lawrence of Arabia" where David Lean, the director, has him appear way off in the distance on the horizon and Peter O’Toole sees this dot on the horizon and it takes eight minutes for Omar to finally come into focus riding proudly on his camel. I wanted to clone this, but I put Shazam on a burro and thus the line "Here comes Shazam riding in on his ass!" was born. And it was perfect to have the English guy utter those words. Gave it class and it still makes me laugh. I really am enjoying my film. I pray others will, also.