Trolling For Fans
by David M. Story
If one's claim to fame isn't playing in the greatest story ever told, why shouldn't one's fifteen minutes of fame come from starring in the worst movie ever made? That is the exact scenario that befell Alexander City, Alabama, dentist Dr. George Hardy. The vehicle was Troll 2, a cult film not for the faint of heart. After all, they did do strange things with baloney. And, without giving away the ending, when Hardy's on-screen son goes looking for his mother at the end, a ball rolls down the stairs, scrawled with this hint of disaster: "Mommy's yummy!" So, how did an Alabama native and healthcare professional become embroiled in the biggest movie fiasco of all time?
Directed by the Italian filmmaker Claudio Fragasso and based on a story he co-wrote with Rossella Drudi, this 1990 bomb was filmed in Utah. Enter Alexander City native and former Auburn cheerleader, George Hardy, who was living there at the time.
"I was practicing dentistry in Salt Lake," recalls Hardy, "and one of my patients had done some acting and she said, 'You should take some acting lessons,' so I took some lessons in Salt Lake where I was practicing in 1988-89, and then another friend of mine, a ski coach, said, 'You ought to get an agent,' and then I did and later auditioned for this part. I had only done one Toyota commercial. I went up to Park City and walked into this audition, and there were people lined up to get this part where I played the dad. They were all Italian and none spoke English, and the next day I got the part in the movie. I do remember seeing Troll; it came out the year before.
"I was almost eleven years old," reminisces Michael Paul Stephenson, who played Joshua, the son of Hardy's character, Michael Waits. "I received a call from my agent and went in for audition; it was held in Park City, Utah. I remember showing up for the audition and walking into this room full of Italians. None of them spoke English, and all of them were smoking, and they handed me a script. I did the audition, and a few days later my agent called and said I had the role. It's now kind of like a big family joke. When I got cast in the part, my dad read the script and scratched his head and said, 'I don't know about this. It's strange movie.' But, now years later, it is a lot of fun. "
When pressed for his most vivid memory, Hardy replies, "They were all little goblins -- they called this movie Troll 2, and there actually no trolls in this movie. They're all goblins. There were burlap sacks they put these small people in, and they're all running around. And that is probably my most vivid memory, because it was so unusual."
"For me, I think, working with Claudio and his Italian crew," chimes in Stephenson on his most outstanding recollection. "Claudio, when he would direct, kept saying, 'Bigger! Louder!' It was all in broken English. That's what I remember the most: Claudio in my face. For me at that age it was so much fun. I got paid to show up on set, scream, make a lot of stupid faces, and run around and have fun. That was great! "
At the time of the original production, young Stephenson actually had more work experience than his on-screen father. Sharing a favorite memory of working with the novice Hardy, Stephenson continues, "With George, we had a lot of scenes together. I really remember the scene where we are going to yell at the son of the neighbors. George was driving like he was a stunt car driver. We had this little mini-van and I remember George driving really fast and slamming on the brakes in the dirt. I thought that it was such fun."
"It was Utah dry sand," interrupts Hardy. "There was this Winnebago, and I am driving down with this other huge van, and I just skid and skid and skid, and we almost hit the other Winnebago."
"When George and I reconnected in April," continues Stephenson, "a lot of things around the world were developing with this film. A tiny little film made in Utah seventeen year ago with no budget was all of sudden 'infecting' Playstation games, being shown in Africa and in all these different places popping up. Our first conversation on the phone was awesome. We had not talked for seventeen years."
"I always felt Michael was gifted," adds Hardy, "a very talented kid. He remembers a lot more detail than I do. We had a great time together, and we developed a pretty strong bond back then. It's been good for me to reconnect."
"He's the nicest guy in the world," interjects Stephenson, looking at Hardy and laughing, "the epitome of southern hospitality. Troll 2 was one of those films that's so bad, it's brilliant -- brilliantly bad. I had run from the film, as had all of us in the cast. The first time I saw it, I was appalled, needless to say. I was shocked it turned out as it did, a very bad horror film. For my entire life, it was playing on HBO and Showtime, and I had kids at school come up to me in the hallways and scream, 'A double-decker baloney sandwich!' (Don't ask!) I continue to act, but never has anybody recognized me so much as from Troll 2, which has attracted lot hype and a lot of interest. I thought, 'My word, I am going to die, and this is the only thing I am going to be remembered for.' Then I woke up one morning in April, and I thought, 'Why not make a documentary called Best Worst Movie and show why it's generated all this attention and loyal fan base? And so, I have made some connections with a producer named Scott Pearlman, and we are producing a documentary that talks about Troll 2 and this phenomenon that has been created around this worst movie ever made and George's role in it."
"It's quite interesting," he continues, "because George does have an interesting story. He's a dentist from a small town, and he found himself in this awful horror movie directed by people who could not speak English. You look at the circumstances of everything that led up to it, and now seventeen years later you have people all over the world that are throwing Troll 2 parties. People quote George's lines daily all over world, even in German. It has developed an underground following. So over the next year, that is going to be my primary focus, directing and writing this documentary. Somebody needs to grab hold of this and share it with everyone because it is very, very unique. And you look at what people are doing -- I got e-mail from a fan in Zimbabwe. And now they've created this social circle there where everybody gets together and watches the movie, shouts at the screen, and quotes lines."
All that aside, when asked if he feels like a cult luminary, Stephenson laughs heartily: "That's quite a title to live up to, but I think the coolest thing about Troll 2 having this underground popularity is being able to meet and see the fans. We had the New York city screening at the Citizens Brigade Theater, a well-respected comedy club, and it was record night, sold out with hundreds of fans from all over the place, including Miami and California. The coolest thing is to see these fans and their genuine love for the best worst movie. And to see their creativity in remaking the trailer and creating own posters. I got a letter from fan yesterday who'd produced his own song around the movie. It's lot of fun. Let's just keep having fun with it. We've even thought about for the Troll 2 twentieth anniversary doing a big reunion in Morgan, Utah. (That's the real Nilbog, or goblin spelled backwards.)"
"A couple of years ago," contributes Hardy, "they were having screening in Auckland, New Zealand, and about two o'clock in the morning I get a phone call from there, and there were 200 people there watching Troll 2, and they did a question and answer with me on the phone."
"These things that can't be engineered," concludes Stephenson. "It's just like this spontaneity that pops up and spreads, and you'll see Dr. George Hardy in another movie; you will. In the meantime, our website gives us a good outlet for contacting fans. We've been getting a phenomenal amount of traffic, and T-shirts are being sold. When we were in New York, George was the fan favorite; the fans just loved him. His character resonates so well. He came out on stage and people were yelling so loud, some were practically crying. They were shaking when they were asking us for our autographs. He is a cult luminary."
"George's character threads everything together," he continues. "He's the hero and the father figure. As an actor, he was a dentist filling cavities one day and the next in small-town Utah running from little people in burlap sacks. Both of us had put Troll 2 on the shelf and run from it."
"Being a big Troll 2 fan, I've been monitoring its popularity over the years," adds Scott Pearlman, who begin his film career in such odd jobs as personal assistant and location manager, before going on to work in development. "I went on the Internet Movie Database board, and there was a lot of activity with cast members interacting with the fans. I contacted Michael, and he told me he had this great idea of doing a documentary, and I thought it was great idea."
"Troll 1 was perceived as a typical, average horror film," concludes Pearlman. "Troll 2 is remembered because it is so awesomely bad and ridiculous. Awesome is the one word to describe George's role in Troll 2. Everything was done wrong, but it is watchable and entertaining, and no one can explain why, It's just the absurdity of it all that transcends the original. That is what I saw in the film when I first saw it at fifteen."
Film reviews aside, fans worldwide continue to offer the publicity-hungry Hardy adulation. In retrospect, the good doctor got off easy, leaving an opening an for a sequel. He wasn't gobbled up in the end, and he wasn't turned into a giant pickle like Sonny Bono in the original Troll. Some guys have all the luck!
Copyright © 27 Jun 2011 We
You may email David M. Story.