[Interview] Producer Suzanne C. Nagy Discusses the Troubled Production of 'Grizzly II' and When We Can Expect to See the Film!
By now, some of you know of the film Grizzly II...
...A while back, it was announced that giant bear monster movie Grizzly II (1983), the long lost sequel to the 1976 horror flick Grizzly (one of my personal favorites), had finally been finished! If you're asking yourself, why did it take just a little under forty years to finish this movie, and when the hell can I see it, good news, we have answers!
That's because, with the film currently playing in festivals, I recently had the pleasure of an opportunity to discuss the film with producer Suzanne C. Nagy, the woman who was there for every bit of heartbreak and moment of triumph during the production, and the one who is responsible for resurrecting this once hibernating, giant grizzly bear for fans to finally be able to get a long awaited look at. We discussed the troubled shoot, what prompted Suzanne to finish the film, when we can expect to see it, and more!
Check out the full interview below!
Killer Horror Critic: How did you originally get involved in Grizzly II? Were you a fan of the original film?
Suzanne C. Nagy: I was the representative of the Hungarian film industry in the US between 1978-84, and in 1982, Joseph Ford Porctor called me from Chicago wanting to make movies together. I received three scripts and I picked 'Grizzly II' because the film had a live concert and a big bear, the perfect challenge to introduce the Hungarian film industry to Hollywood.
KHC: Grizzly II had an incredible cast consisting of actors such as Louise Fletcher and John Rhys Davies, as well as early appearances from George Clooney, Laura Dern and Charlie Sheen. Do you have any fond memories of working with them, and in the case of Clooney, Dern and Sheen, could you tell they were going to go on to do great things?
SN: All these fantastic actors had a great time in Hungary. Although Clooney, Dern and Sheen were not stars yet, it was very easy to work with them. They stayed longer than the assignment required and had a wonderful time. We did have some tough times because my partner disappeared on me and I had to work fourteen hours a day to finish principal photography, but in the end, it was worth it.
"I received three scripts and I picked 'Grizzly II' because the film had a live concert and a big bear, the perfect challenge to introduce the Hungarian film industry to Hollywood."
KHC: As far as I understand it, your producing partner Joseph Ford Proctor left the film and said there was no money left. In your words, what happened, and what was going through your mind at that time? What did you end up doing when you learned of this?
SN: Joe left the first day of the shoot which was the concert day. This day was the most glorious, spectacular day, because we had forty-fifty thousand rock fans. We also filmed the bear's back stage attack. We got great material for the ending of the film. The next day, Joe told my husband, not me, that he was leaving and that the production would be closed down. He didn't even have the guts to face me! He was a coward, among other things. But God's ways are mysterious! An investor showed up and we got money from him when I told him the story about Joe. He said, "I must save this film!" It was amazing. Everything happened so fast and I needed to be quiet about this drama to protect the film and have the Hungarians on my side.
KHC: What was it like working with the giant electromechanical bear, and did I read correctly that you had a live bear on set during the concert sequence as well? Can you tell us about shooting the finale at the concert, and what viewers can expect to see with that?
SN: We never had a live bear. One editor who self-appointed himself as a writer and a co-producer, created this rumor. We had two mechanical bears and one bear suit. The suit and the small mechanical torso didn't work.
During the concert, we filmed the big mechanical bear, a gigantic animal which stood 16 feet tall. It was fantastic. Nick Maley, the special effects guy, built it. He was a genius, to have created such a fantastic and very real animal. He also built the shark for Spielberg's 'Jaws'. But since the suit never worked, we couldn't finish the second unit in Hungary. We also ran out of money.
"During the concert, we filmed the big mechanical bear, a gigantic animal which stood 16" tall. It was fantastic. Nick Maley, the special effects guy, built it. He was a genius, to have created such a fantastic and very real animal. He also built the shark for Spielberg's 'Jaws'."
KHC: You have a book out about your experience called Swimming Among Sharks: The Story Behind the Making of Grizzly II. What can you tell us about the book, and why was this a story you felt you wanted to tell in that format?
SN: Most importantly, I discovered that Joe was raising a bit of money and trying to create buzz for this movie. He broke all the rules and pushed us to start pre-production. He thought he could raise more money and create more buzz again. It didn't work.
One of the reasons I wrote the book was to tell my film colleagues, don't start production until you have all of the funds available. The other very important feature of the book is about the socialism in Hungary and the atypical circumstances in the iron-curtain. I can only recommend it for people who like this mystical fog.
KHC: A while back, a bootlegged cut of the unfinished film began circulating. Was this upsetting to you, and did it help encourage wanting to finish the film? How much new footage was shot for the completed film?
SN: The bootlegged version was uploaded by the same guy who claimed that he was part of the shoot in 1983 and that a real bear was used. First, I was upset, then we started to get rid of his uploads and he would immediately upload them again. It's hard to get rid of fake stuff from the internet!
The bootleg was practically un-watchable, because an old tape was converted. When I finally decided to finish the film, I used my old 35mm film and converted it into digital. I loved what I saw but I had to upgrade the story and added about twenty percent new footage to it.
"One of the reasons I wrote the book was to tell my film colleagues, don't start production until you have all of the funds available. The other very important feature of the book is about the socialism in Hungary and the atypical circumstances in the iron-curtain."
KHC: In your statement on the film's website, you mention that in 2018, the time was right to begin rethinking the film. Had anything significant happened around that time that made you want to go back to Grizzly II?
SN: Yes. I got older. I started to think about my autobiography and I don't like leaving things uncompleted.
KHC: You also mention on the site that you saw an opportunity to deliver a new message with the missing part of the film. What was that message?
SN: I am an environmentalist, and in my art field, this is all I am doing. So I needed to tell why the mother bear goes on a killing spree. Destruction in nature always ends up with disaster.
KHC: What happened after Grizzly II? Did the experience push you out of wanting to do film for a while? If so, what lessons do you want others to take from your experience?
SN: I'd like to find a group of great filmmakers and, as a consultant, I'd like to participate in a "making of this movie" and tell the real story about what happened with this film. It would be a great documentary and an important message of what not to do.
KHC: Any word on when audiences will be able to see Grizzly II outside of festivals?
SN: Yes, I think I found the right outfit for distribution and I am planning to have 'Grizzly II' out in the Fall of this year.
KHC: If Grizzly II is successful, are there any plans for a potential Grizzly III?
SN: Yes of course!
(To find out more about 'Grizzly II' and Suzanne, visit the film's website, and make sure to check out her book, 'Swimming Among Shark: The Story Behind the Making of Grizzly II', available through Amazon.)
By Matt Konopka