Sorry for all the build-up. I wanted to do the whole thing 2 days ago, but by the time I got all the backstory out concerning how this whole thing came to be, the entry was already really long.
Apologies. 2 build up posts is way too much. 2 2 much, right?
We met George Hardy at a gas station on the outskirts of his hometown (for the record, he’s not hard to track down, and seems willing to chat with fans, but I’m not gonna be the asshole that tells the internet where he lives. Even though it is a big part of “Best Worst Movie”).
Straight away, I knew what sort of man George Hardy was. The type who would take a full day off from his dental practice to hang out with two goobers representing a website.
Speaking of, the first thing we did was to follow him back to his dentistry.
(I just turned on my handheld dictaphone and the very first part of this file is someone whispering my name into the mic, followed by “this is Troll 2”. It would be creepy if the voice wasn’t instantly recognizable.)
George: “Right now we’re here at my dental office on Church Street, it’s one of the oldest streets that was here when the city was founded in the early 1900s, maybe late 1800s… These two houses, my dental office and the one next door, were both houses that were actually where Lake Martin [huge scenic lake and recreation area nearby] is right now. The lake was filled in 1926, and I think they moved these houses up here in 1923, before the lake was filled in, and they were reassembled.”
TWER: “Is this still the largest man-made…?”
George: “It was at the time. Lake Martin was the largest man-made lake in the world. It has over 750 miles of shoreline now. My great- great- grandfather owned 3 1/2 or 4 miles of shore around Wicker Point, which he sold to the Russell family for 25 cents an acre, but it’s now worth millions and millions of dollars. That’s the Russell family [for those of you not familiar with the area, the Russell family mentioned here would better be known as the family behind Russell Athletic, a brand of sporty gear]. I think there’s some land around here that is still deeded to the Hardy name around…
But anyway, in 1991 I moved back. I finished Auburn in 1977…”
TWER: “War Eagle.”
George: “Yep, I was a cheerleader. And I was a K.A., in a fraternity… Both my sisters were there at Auburn. My older sister was an Alpha Gam, and my younger sister was an Alpha Gam. My younger was a majorette at Auburn when I was cheering at Auburn […] So I finished Auburn in 1977 and went straight to dental school at University of Alabama, the other school…”
Me: “Oh no!”
George: “Well, it was UAB, University of Alabama at Birmingham. I had to go there, it was the only dental school! But I finished there in ’81… Then I did a post-doctorate program out in Salt Lake City, Utah. I got accepted to several, but I chose Salt Lake because of the mountains.”
Me: “So being in Salt Lake, is that how you met up with the Troll 2 gang?”
George: “That’s kinda what happened. I moved there in 1981, and in 1989 is when we made Troll 2. I was about to move back to Alabama, because I didn’t want to hang my shingle in Utah. I was about to get married to Merry and she said, ‘Do you really wanna get married in this Utah sand?’ and I didn’t really know if I could or not. The pine trees and Lake Martin were calling me back, and Auburn University was calling me back, too.”
TWER: “Waaarrr Eagle.”
George: “Yeah. I was missing those Auburn football games too much. So I moved back here in 1991, and right before that I made this film and it was just really neat. I just, you know, did it on a whim…”
Me: “Did it change your life, do you think?”
George: “Oh yeah, definitely. It definitely changed my life. Not in 1989, it didn’t…”
Me: “Now, though, obviously…”
George: “Yeah, in 2006…”
Me: “Is that when yall started working on the documentary?”
George: “Yeah, that’s when we started working on the documentary. It’s kinda funny, but when I parted ways with everyone in Troll 2, it was a non-SAG film, all Italian production that didn’t speak English, Claudio Fragasso and Rossella Drudi, brought in about 9 guys and put this film together. They were filming two films at the same time…”
Me: “What was the other movie?”
George: “I forget the other film… [note: it was not Monster Dog, starring Alice Cooper]
But there was another film being made at the same time. They would film us in the day, and then the other film at night. They were wrapping up the other film, and I think Troll 2 overlapped with the other film.”
Me: “Do you think the other film is as, uhhh, miraculous as Troll 2?”
George: “I think they were calling it Troll 3 or something…”
George: “Yeah, it’s funny, but yeah, there’s no way it’s like Troll 2, I can promise you that…”
Me: “It can’t be… Anyway, do you wanna go get something to eat?”
At this point, George trusted us enough to ride in my car. He even told me that he used to have the same kind of car and complimented me on how well I had kept mine up (’03 Honda Element).
He took us to a local yokel place called “Cecil’s”, where we promised to buy his lunch (we did), as some tiny bit of recompense for his time. I don’t know how many teeth you can pull in a day, but I’m sure it’s more than $15 worth.
The lunch was really good, and everyone in the place seemed really friendly, and they, of course, all knew George and didn’t seem to think it strange that he was having lunch with two weirdo looking city slickers.
I have our conversation from the dentist office to Cecil’s on tape. It mostly consisted of George telling us that the owner of Cecil’s went to Auburn, and about all the other important people in town who also went to Auburn, including his cheerleading partner. Then I tell him that I was in the audience when he skyped-in to the theater that I saw Best Worst Movie in.
On to lunch….
[talking about Best Worst Movie here. the tape seems to kinda cut in on an already-going conversation]
George: “When the movie came out, the critics… We were given a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, which I’m sure yall are aware of…”
Both: “Right, right, right…”
George: “It was one of the highest rated movies of 2010, and they came out with the shortlist of the Oscars, and a lot of people have said that it is definitely Oscar-worthy, and we did all the qualifications for the Academy, and we didn’t make the top 15. I was really bummed out.”
Me: “As far as documentaries go, it’s gotta be one of the best for this year…”
George: “We were snubbed by the Academy. Also, Joan Rivers, the documentary about her…”
Me: “I actually saw that in the same theater where I saw Best Worst Movie…”
George: “It’s a very good documentary. So she… that was snubbed, too. We found out that the people for Oscars, they take on… it’s just serious, ‘save the world’ stuff…”
TWER: “Right… Whales and dolphins…”
Me: “‘The Cove’… that’s right, I did see that…”
[We briefly discuss The Cove, which we all agreed was no Best Worst Movie…]
George: “So, like I said, I was really bummed out…”
TWER: “Did you talk with Michael? Is that his name?”
George: “I talked to Michael last night. He said that he wasn’t a bit surprised, because ours is not a serious, “save the world”, kind of film…”
Me: “Well, I guess that just depends on your perspective. It could be, if you took it that way. If you looked at it that way…”
George: “I agree, it could be taken as a very serious film. We’ve just gotten sales of the dvd…”
Me: “Well, some of the folks in the documentary are almost kinda tragic. I mean, you know, with your co-star…”
George: “Yeah, that whole thing…”
Me: “That was…. depressing…”
[Awkward pause, as no one really seems to want to discuss the scenes with Margo, which are obviously what we’re referencing here. At this point those scenes become the elephant in the room.]
I apparently taped our whole lunch, because right around here we order. TWER has the chicken fingers, I have the “Cecil Salmon” (not from Lake Martin, clearly), and George has the day’s special, which is some sort of chicken dish.
George: “So we made the film in 1989. It was just something I did for fun. When I got the lead role, I was about to move back to Alabama anyway, so it was just something I did, a project that I did on a whim.”
TWER: “How did you find out about it?”
George: “One of my patients told me about it. Said I should go to Park City and audition for it. I just went up there, and there were all these guys there, waiting to audition to be the lead ‘dad’. It was kinda like going up and auditioning in a condominium. There were 9 Italians in the room. Smoke-filled. You could not see, yall. No one smokes in Utah, yall. All the smoke…”
TWER: [laughing] “All these Italians…”
George: “So no one spoke English, and they said ‘Here, read this script’ and I read it, and the next day I got the phone call that I got the lead dad…”
Me: “That’s funny, that they’re all just in there chain smokin’…”
George: “Then I was like, ‘Well what do I do now?'”
Me: “How many guys were there at the audition?”
George: “They told me that a couple hundred guys tried out, but I didn’t believe ’em. But that’s what I heard.”
Me: “That’s awesome…”
George: “Well, I don’t believe that. Probably ten. So anyway, I got the lead dad, and I was just like, ‘There’s no way I can practice dentistry and do this!'”
TWER: “Did you even know what the movie was?”
George: “No, I never even knew what the movie was while we were making it!!!”
[laughs all around]
George: “Like it said in the documentary, the script was so discombobulated that I had trouble just getting through a scene! All I wanted to do was just get through a scene, with all these non-actors, me being one too…
All I could remember, from doing plays in high school and cheerleading, and this was the opposite, was just not to over-act.”
Me: “Yeah, I took a few theatre classes at Auburn, because I was in liberal arts, and you’re taught to over-exaggerate everything so the people in the back can see it…”
George: “Exactly! So, we did the 3-week shoot. Like I said, non-SAG film, got paid $100 a day. It was a 15-day shoot for me. Some days we’d have to start early in the morning and go until late at night. We shot at the hottest time of the year in Utah: August. It was in Park City, where it’s even hot up at the top of the mountains.It was shot in Morgan, and Park City, and some down in Salt Lake City. And we had a wrap party at my cabin up in the mountains, and we all left…”
TWER: “You had a wrap party?”
George: “Yeah, I had a wrap party, then I left, forgot about it, and I thought, ‘Well, it was a fun thing, now I gotta get on to other things.’ And I kinda forgot about doing the film, but I always kinda had it in the back of my mind that it would be kinda fun to do a little acting on the side. But there’s no way, I gotta be a dentist. So Merry and I moved back here and that’s when I renovated that old house into a dental office. 1991.”
[there’s a bit here where he talks about his family, but in the interest of not posting his family’s names and locations, I will omit it]
George: “And while all this was going on, being a dad and such, I had completely and totally forgotten about Troll 2. I would show it to some of my patients, in the early 90s, and they would intermittently show it on HBO and Showtime and Cinemax…”
Me: “Like, really late at night, or…”
George: “I promise, I never watched the thing all the way through. I never watched Troll 2, in its entirety, until we started the documentary.”
George: “Yep. So, in 2006 I get a phone call from a guy, his name is Joe Scott. And Joe called me, and he was doing a radio documentary on Troll 2, and I said, ‘Well, why are you doing that?’ and he said, ‘Don’t you know about the cult phenomenon that is around the movie?’ I said, ‘What do you mean, phenomenon?’ because my VHS copy had collected dust, ya know… I didn’t buy the dvd, I didn’t care to. I think somebody just gave it to me. Because I was so embarrassed by it, that scene with me and Margo on the couch, I just couldn’t watch it…”
George: “The goblins… I would just fast forward all the way through, so…”
TWER: “So, when was the first time you saw any of it?”
George: “One of my patients brought me the VHS…”
TWER: “So, you would just occasionally tell people that you were in this thing…”
Me: “They probably saw the movie and recognized you…”
George: “Yep! Well, I never saw it…”
Me: “I remember seeing Troll 1 as a kid, and I really liked it, so when Troll 2 came out, I was like ‘I gotta see it.’ Needless to say, I was a bit perplexed by it… But let me, let me ask you this: Do you really think Troll 2 is that bad?”
George: “Well, let’s just say this: it’s amazing to me. It’s not that bad, it’s just amazing, to me. Because it’s so…. uhhh… it delivers. It hits you like no other movie because it’s like Rocky Horror Picture Show… but whereas Rocky Horror is a musical, it’s the lines in Troll 2 that get you. Where you’re just like, ‘Did they really just say that?'”
Me: “Do you think Troll 2 will have the lasting power of Rocky Horror?”
George: “Ummmm… definitely. I mean, it’s growing still.”
Me: “It is! Especially because of the documentary. It came out Tuesday [on dvd]. Do you think it could propel its popularity?”
George: “Oh, definitely. People are having Troll 2 parties and now they can watch it with Best Worst Movie…”
Me: “We did that last night!”
George: “It’s great fun, isn’t it? What a night of entertainment! I mean, you can laugh your ass off at both of them!”
TWER: “Going back a little bit, from talking with them [the documentary folks], when do you think the whole ‘phenomenon’ began?”
George: “Oh yeah, going back to my story… So I get the phone call in 2006, and I ask him what he meant by phenomenon, and he said ‘If you don’t believe me, go to imdb.’ I didn’t know what that meant, but I went to imdb in April of 2006, and there it was, in the bottom 100. So I just scrolled down, and as fate would have it, I get to the forum part at the very bottom, and there it was, all the questions from all over the world about Troll 2. And then it said, ‘Troll 2 Cast Reunion: All Cast Members Please Come April the 13th’, and this was April the 11th. And it had a phone number on the screen. So I called the number and there was this guy who collected all these vintage films, and he says, ‘Yeah, I’m trying to gather all the cast members.’ And I said, ‘Oh my God, you’re kidding! Where are they all? It’s been 17 years! Where is Michael Stephenson, who played my son?’ So he gave me all this information, and he said, ‘Ya gotta come, George!’ So I went out there, thinking I was gonna see Troll 2 on a big screen in a theater, and it wasn’t. It was on a brick wall down in Provo, Utah. And I got there late on the 13th, and it was probably the best thing I ever did. I got tackled by all these BYU students who were like, ‘Oh my God, it’s Farmer Waits, you guys! This is amazing!’
I had no idea that all this was going on, because Joe had told me in this interview, ‘I’m telling you, this is really catching on.’ And I thought, ‘There’s no way…’
But Michael wasn’t there, but some of the other people were. Creedence [Deborah Reed, irl] was there, and Don Packard was there, the drug store owner. Grandpa Seth was there, and Darren Ewing was there. There were six of us, who were there…”
Me: “That’s pretty big!”
George: “Yeah, it was. And Creedence goes, ‘George, you won’t believe it, but I’m getting all kinds of messages on myspace.’ I didn’t know what myspace was, and I had moved back to Alabama and no one knew where I was, from the film. So all the cast members from Troll 2 were still living in Utah. And Michael’s parents were there, and now he’s 27. So I called him the next day, and he says, ‘George, we gotta do a documentary about this.’ And I said, ‘Why?’
And he said, ‘George, there are people all over the world who are having these underground parties…’
So I said ok, and it was this grassroots thing, just me and him talking on the phone. So we both met, I flew out to Los Angeles a few weeks later, met with Michael, and we said ‘Let’s put it together.’
And I said, “Well you’re not going to believe this, but the Upright Citizens Brigade theater, up in New York, have given Troll 2 some awards, both Best Director and Worst Movie. I called them, and they said, ‘Oh my god, it’s George Hardy!’ and they knew who I was and they were flipping out, so I said, ‘Can we have a screening there?’
And people came from all over the United States to that screening. It was historic for Troll 2 and its fans.
And Michael asked if I would be willing to be the main subject for this story about Troll 2, and I said I would.”
TWER: “I just assumed that he had decided to do it on his own, but it seems like it all happened because yall had talked and because of all this stuff going on…”
George: “Michael and I pulled it all together to do the documentary. And Michael contacted Landmark and so Landmark put Troll 2 back up on the big screen in 28 cities. Then the independent theaters started breaking into Troll 2, and that’s what we documented. I went to about 28 cities, and then worldwide…”
Me: “Yeah, like in the movie, the conventions and stuff…”
George: “We went into about 8 countries, and we filmed about 400 hours of footage. They just did a big article in our paper here, I’ll show you that. The bottom line is that with all that footage, we edited it down to about 93 minutes.”
TWER: “Are you a part of that? Are you a producer on it?”
George: “Well, we’ve got friends and family that are part of the production of it, so I’m not on the name of ‘Producer’, but I organized it. It was Michael and I’s decision to do all this, really….
So here it is, four years later, and now there’s talk of Troll 2 Part 2…”
Me: “Yeah, it mentions that in the documentary. Do you think… uhhh… is that happenin’?”
George: “Yes, um, it’s gonna happen.”
Me: “Really? And you’re gonna be in it?”
TWER: “With Fragasso?”
George: “It has not been announced yet… Let’s just say it’s a possibility.”
Me: “Claudio, in the film, calls you all dogs. You wouldn’t have any qualms about working with that guy again?”
George: “Oh, Claudio’s great!”
Me: “He’s nicer than he comes off in the movie? He seemed like kind of a jerk, to be honest, but that may be just a cultural difference because everyone here in the South is so polite. But there is one point, near the end of the film, that seemed kind of poignant, where he’s talking about his job, and making movies, and he seems to be truly passionate about doing that.”
George: “And that’s the true Claudio. The parts where he’s talking about ‘These actors are dogs’, and all of that, that’s just his ego. He’s really not like that…”
TWER: “So does he get it? Does he understand the irony…?”
George: “Claudio’s wife sent me a long message on facebook about Troll 2. She took it as a very serious criticism of fables and adult storytelling, and at the same time tried to make it comedy. I’m still a bit confused by it all, by exactly what she was trying to say.”
TWER: “What’s your favorite part in Troll 2? Like, is there a part where you still cringe? Despite the fact that that is what it’s all about now? Is there a moment, knowing that these are the parts that everyone likes, is there still a part where you’re just like, ‘Dear lord….’?”
George: “There’s a part where I’m actually running from some goblins, and all these goblins are chasing us toward the end of the movie. Then Joshua disappears and goes to Creedence’s house or something? I forget that weird part…”
[a good chuckle by everyone]
George: “And one is supposed to jump on my back, and you can see me slow down so that the guy can jump on top of me. And then the part where I’m supposed to be frozen at the table, and you can see me breathing…”
TWER: “Were yall talking about it? Like, ‘How is this gonna look?'”
George: “We were all trying really hard to do a good job. Because we don’t understand any of the English parts, either.”
TWER: “But did yall talk about it…?”
George: “They kept speaking to us in Italian! So we had no clue. There was no direction in Troll 2.”
TWER: “But you all thought this was going to be coming out at the theater, right?”
George: “Oh yeah, we all had this wish, ‘Well, maybe it’ll come out on the big screen.’ Now, 20 years later, Michael and I brought it back to the big screen.”
TWER: “Is there a point in Best Worst Movie that you find particularly poignant for you?”
George: “Well, Michael really caught me at my essence after I’d had a few glasses of wine at my house. When they’re like, ‘C’mon George, would you really like to be an actor?’ You know it really hit me that I really would like to do that again, and it would be fun to try. I guess that’s when it hit me that, ‘Ya know, life really is too short to be playing one role, all your life.’ Since then, I’ve done a few cameos in a few fun films. One is called Ghost Shark 2: Urban Jaws.”
Me: “I saw that one on your imdb page. What’s that one about? A shark in the city?”
George: “I don’t really know! I don’t know! The lead actress from The Room, Lisa…
Ya know, you guys are film lovers, and there are just huge numbers of people, like you, who are into bad movies. People really do know about Best Worst Movie now…”
TWER: “So do people from around here know about it?”
George: “Yeah, it’s in the paper here a lot, I can show it to you…”
Then we talk about the shutdown of the Russell Athletic plant and how it really devastated his hometown. Incidentally, Auburn switched to Under Armour (from Russell) not long before the plant closed down. Also, George tells us that his dad was the president of Russell Athletic for years and that he invented the “tear away jersey”. I honestly don’t know what that is, but my TWER friend was really impressed.
I ask him if he would ever leave Alabama, even if his acting career took off, and he said that he wouldn’t and that the city he lives in now is nice (which it is) and promises to show us around the city a bit more.
We left Cecil’s and George did show us around a bit more, including a stop at the cinema that is featured in Best Worst Movie and also at the largest muscle car museum in the United States. Then we go inside his dental office, which is closed by this point, to watch a few highlights on the Best Worst Movie dvd, like the special features.
Me: “I’d like to get a few pictures of you in here, if I could, George…”
George: “Yeah, yeah… that’d be kinda neat…”
Me: “Maybe over there by your credentials?”
George: “Yeah, and we got the Glom [Glomerata, Auburn’s yearbook] here…”
Me: “Yeah, and the dvds…”
George: “So this is just a really different feel for a dental office, in this house and all. A lot of people really like it!”
Me: “Do you take my insurance?”
George: “Oh yeah, I’m sure we do!”
At this point, I think I left the recorder on as you can hear us walk off and a lot of chatter in the background. It must have been some good stuff I was missing, because there’s a lot of laughs and hootin’ and hollerin’ going on…
[footsteps coming closer] Me: “Let me get my stuff.”
TWER: “It doesn’t hurt. It feels like maybe the teeth have been ground down or something.”
It becomes clear on the tape that George is now peeping inside TWER’s mouth….
George: “Yeah, you need to crown it. Just come up and see me. You live in Auburn?”
George: “Who is your dentist there?”
TWER: “I dunno, some blond-haired guy…”
George: “Well, I can help you out if I can. A lot of people come up from Auburn. This just needs to be smoothed out, here….”
[tooth drilling noises]
George: “Oh, this is going to feel so much better, you poor thing…”
Basically, George works on TWER’s teeth FOR FREE. I have no idea what he did, but it was something, and any dental work is always going to be expensive…
George: “This has been so much fun, I really appreciate you guys coming up here…”
Me: “Well we appreciate everything you’ve done for us, George! Taking the time off and everything! This movie, Best Worst Movie, is gonna be big! It’s already big!”
George: “Do yall think so? I think so.”
Me: “Well just like with Troll 2, I think a lot of the ‘buzz’ or whatever is going to come from word of mouth.”
George [to TWER]: “Is that better? Does that feel better?”
George: “I could put a crown on there, it wouldn’t be any problem whatsoever…”
TWER: “It feels normal now, thank you!”
George: “Oh, you’re very welcome!”
TWER: “Is there a timeline, ya think?” [on getting the crown]
George: “Yeah, I would say within 6 months…”
Me: “Ya gotta take care of medical stuff, dude…”
TWER: “Yeah, I know…”
Footsteps, as we change rooms….
George: “What we can do, is we can put the dvd in here…” [there was a dvd player in the waiting room]
After some scuffling around, trying to figure out the dvd player, we finally got it. My idea was, basically, to record a commentary with George on the special features.
The main reason I wanted to do this was to hopefully get a little more info about the scenes with Margo Prey, and I also wanted to find out why the character Creedence, and the actress who played her, were not in the documentary.
We had a few laughs watching the special features, most of which would be really hard to properly transcribe here.
Me: “Is he [Claudio] popular over there in Italy?”
George: “Oh yeah, I really think so…”
Me: “He speaks pretty good English now…”
George: “Yeah, much better than when we made the movie.”
All in all, that’s really about it. I got George to sign my copy of Troll 2, and I got him to sign a copy of Best Worst Movie for a friend of mine, which he had obviously done numerous times, as he had those dvd covers out and signed in like milliseconds.
I tried to get him to talk about the scenes with Margo Prey in Best Worst Movie, and he did, but I don’t really feel comfortable putting his comments out there for the whole internets to see. He didn’t say anything bad about anyone, though. George Hardy is a true Southern Gentleman, if ever there was one.
We packed up our stuff at the dental office and gave George a ride to pick up his daughter (whom he was trying to convince to go to Auburn). While we were in the parking lot, TWER had the idea to film him saying, “You can’t piss on Cam Newton, I won’t allow it!” A reference to Troll 2, of course.
The last time I heard from George was when he called me just before the National Championship game started a couple years ago, just to give me a War Eagle and say hello.
George, if you are reading this, thank you SO much for spending the day with us! We had a terrific time and you are truly a gracious host! I apologize that this didn’t make it on to TWER (a much bigger and more well-traveled website), but just want to say that you are awesome and I’m sure you are still just as nice and well-mannered as ever, and I hope you are doing very well.
The last question I have for you is, “Why aren’t you a guest at Dragon*Con????”