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Archive for December 30, 2011

Lloyd Kaufman

Lloyd Kaufman (born December 30, 1945) is anAmerican film director, producer, screenwriter and occasional actor. With producer Michael Herz, he is the co-founder of Troma Entertainment film studio, and the director of many of their feature films, including ‘The Toxic Avenger’ and ‘Tromeo and Juliet’. Kaufman also serves as chairman of the Independent Film & Television Alliance. 

Kaufman graduated from Yale University with the class of 1968, where he majored in Chinese studies. His Yale classmates included Oliver Stone and George W. Bush. Originally intending to become a social worker, he became fast friends with student filmmaker Robert Edelstein and Eric Sherman who introduced him to his future lifelong obsession, cinema.

Following his graduation, Kaufman went on to work for Cannon Films, where he met John G. Avildsen (future Academy Award winning winning director of ‘Rocky’ and ‘The Karate Kid’). The two collaborated for several years, making low-budget films. During this period, Kaufman also directed and starred in his second feature film, ‘The Battle of Love’s Return’, which garnered positive reviews in publications such as The New York Times, wrote and produced the lesbian thriller ‘Sugar Cookies’ (with Oliver Stone), and wrote and directed another film, the Israeli comedy flop ‘Big Gus, What’s the Fuss?’. Kaufman also served as executive in charge of locations for ‘Staurday Night Fever’, and was influential in choosing 2001 Odyssey as the nightclub in the film.

From 1973-1979, Kaufman produced and directed a handful of adult films in New York under the pseudonym “Louis Su.” He directed at least three movies: The Divine Obsession, The Newcomers, and Sweet & Sour, and has been credited for producing at least three more.

In 1974, Kaufman and his business partner Michael Herz founded Troma Entertainment and began producing and distributing independent action and comedy films. In order to pay the bills, Kaufman did some freelance work for major Hollywood productions, including Rocky (edited on Troma’s flatbed machines), Saturday Night Fever, and The Final Countdown, which he also produced. From 1979 to 1981, the two wrote, produced and directed a series of profitable “sexy comedies” including ‘Squeeze Play!’, ‘Waitress!’, ‘Stuck on You!’ and ‘The First Turn-On!’. On most of these early films, Kaufman is credited as “Samuel Weil.”

In 1985, Troma experienced mainstream success with the violent, darkly comic superhero film ‘The Toxic Avenger’. Toxic went on to become Troma’s most popular movie, inspiring three sequels, a Saturday morning childrens television show, comic books and tons of merchandise. The Toxic Avenger, or “Toxie,” is now Troma’s official mascot.

Kaufman’s follow-up was ‘Class of Nuke ‘Em High’, which he co-directed with Richard W. Haines. Riding on the success of the Toxic Avenger, Nuke ’em inspired two sequels and a healthy run on late night cable shows such as USA Up All Night. 

Troma’s popularity waned after the box office failure of ‘Troma’s War’; Kaufman attributed the film’s lack of success to cuts made to the movie after the MPAA refused to release it with an R-rating in its intended form. Troma’s attempt to reboot its popularity with the super hero satire ‘Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.’ was unsuccessful, failing to make an impression at the box office. From 1995 to 2000, Kaufman retrofitted the studio into an independent film company, finding success amongst cult movie fans and critics with the independent film ‘Tromeo and Juliet’ (1996), a loose parody of Shakespeare’s classic play. Other independent films that followed were the less successful ‘Terror Firmer’ (1999), a slasher film set on the set of a Troma movie (with Kaufman playing a caricature of himself), and the fourth installment in the Toxic Avenger franchise ‘Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV’. 

It would not be long, however, before Troma would once again experience financial hardship, this time after the botched funding of a low-budget video feature titled ‘Tales from the Crapper’, which cost $250,000 despite most of the footage being unusable. Lloyd supervised a reshoot in an attempt to salvage the film, dividing the footage into two parts and recasting the film as a double-feature. Tales from the Crapper was released on DVD in September 2004.

Troma still produces and acquires independent films. Troma Films has distributed many films from third parties including Trey Parker’s ‘Cannibal! The Musical’. Lloyd himself encourages independent filmmaking, making cameo appearances in low-budget horror films, often for free. Recent appearances include screen time in former collaborator James Gunn’s directing debut, ‘Slither’, as well as Gunn’s ‘Super’ and Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor’s ‘Crank’ and ‘Gamer’. 

Kaufman’s latest film, ‘Poultreygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead’, made its official New York premiere on May 9, 2008 (although the film had previewed numerous times on single screens for over a year). On its opening weekend, it had the second highest per-screen average ticket sales, and opened to positive reviews from Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times and was made a critics pick by New York Magazine. 

In September 2008, a staged musical version of The Toxic Avenger opened at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey, directed by Tony Award winner John Rando.

Kaufman is the subject of the forthcoming book Toxic Schlock: Conversations with Lloyd Kaufman by Andrew J. Rausch and Chris Watson. An author himself, Kaufman has most recently been working on adding to his Your Own Damn Movie! series. Having completed Make Your Own Damn Movie!, Direct Your Own Damn Movie! and Produce Your Own Damn Movie!, he is now working on Sell Your Own Damn Movie!.

Kaufman is set to direct the upcoming ‘Toxic Avenger 5: The Toxic Twins’ and is also preparing for both the remake of ‘The Toxic Avenger’  by Akiva Goldsman, and the upcoming Father’s Day, a Canadian film which Troma is producing.