Lloyd Kaufman: The Toxic Director

The filmmaker gets his close-up after 40 years of Troma (more or less)

Suddenly, it's Sam Haft's turn before the cameras. Enthusiastic and polite, he launches into impressions: Christopher Walken, Bill Cosby, a stuttering Paul Giamatti. "I'm really thrilled to be jumping into this new, crazy thing," he tells the de facto casting director, Chelsea Holland, who has asked if he's familiar with Troma. "The one film that I've seen all the way through is Toxic Avenger. I was super-drunk and had a super-fun time," he says. "It was an awesome high school party experience, this get-together, we got crazy wasted."

"Nothing like getting second-rate compliments," Kaufman offers, who has since changed into an I'M TROMATIZED T-shirt and jeans. "You understand that we don't pay here? If we pay, it's very, very, very little," Kaufman says. Yes, Sam answers. "Do you fully understand that?" Sam says he understands that. "He seems to be able to act," Kaufman observes, looking over his one-sheet. "Can you be a nasty high school kid?"

An hour later, Haft is reading as Ivan the Cretin in a scene that involves attempted rape with a duck.

Nate “Igor” Smith
Zac Amico tries out for Return to Class of Nuke 'Em High
Nate "Igor" Smith
Zac Amico tries out for Return to Class of Nuke 'Em High

"How late are you staying?" an intern whispers to me at one point. "Lloyd wants to make sure you see enough girls making out."

Asta Paredes, a 24-year-old from Jersey City, is excited about the possibility of lesbian scenes. "My boyfriend's always been obsessed with the fact that I'm bi, so he's always been asking me stuff," she says. "He won't be able to ask me anymore if I get this movie." She has heard of Troma but has never seen any of the studio's films. "I could do better Shakespeare than most people could dream of—and yet, I don't want to," she says. This opportunity aligns with her acting ambitions. "I want to be in a B horror film that people are actually going to watch. Then I want to be in a sci-fi show, like Fringe or Lost. Then I want to be in a Joss Whedon film or TV show. Then I want to be in a really awesome Lorca production."

Meanwhile, Catherine Corcoran is counting all the girls in the room she has made out with today. She just turned 20 and already has plans for her 65th birthday—she doesn't want to be an old person, so she thinks she'll commit suicide by setting herself on fire and walking down the street. This is just something she says, along with explaining that she got her start as a kid on Broadway. "Every time they needed that kid to run on and say something stupid, and everyone laughs? That was me," she offers. But she has since tired of all the peacocking. "I'm so sick of having to walk into a room and be like: 'Hi. I'm here, and I'm really cute.' That's not what you want as an artist." Preferable, apparently, are scenes like one she did earlier, in which the script called for her to compare her vagina to roast beef.

Luis de Jesus has wanted to meet Lloyd Kaufman for a long time. His father, whose name he shares, starred in Bloodsucking Freaks. De Jesus's dad played Ralphus, a four-foot-three sidekick who administers the pain to frequently nude women at his master's behest: sawing off a hand with a jigsaw, pulling out an eyeball and popping it in his mouth like a gum ball. "The film is sadistic and has no real redeeming values," Kaufman wrote in his first book, acknowledging that it's the one Troma title he's "queasy distributing."

But for de Jesus, who is a little person like his dad, Bloodsucking Freaks is an heirloom. When de Jesus was 13, his father died of a heart attack, so the footage from the movie is one of the only things he has left of his dad. "I feel connected with anything that has to do with my dad," he says. Luis Sr. also starred in the short porn film "The Anal Dwarf" and played an Ewok in the Return of the Jedi. The younger Luis was supposed to be in Episode VI, too, but his mother wouldn't let him out of school. "I really was hoping to work with my dad someday," he admits. He's auditioning for Bass, a Class of Nuke 'Em Cretin in honor of his father, who warned his son not to do porn, so de Jesus only experimented with exotic dancing.

"He had a vision for me," explains de Jesus. "He taught me how to deal with life and the ups and downs of being a little person." He saw Bloodsucking Freaks when he was just a kid. "He said don't allow anybody to get into my head and try to make me make a mistake and try to commit suicide," he remembers. "Sometimes, people could be real cruel. You think about things, like, 'Wait, am I going to have to deal with this for the rest of my life?'" Which is why The Toxic Avenger resonated so deeply—Tromaville was a place where the downtrodden persevered. "You had this wimpy nerdy guy that everybody picked on and abused, and then all the sudden, he becomes this big monster. Next thing you know, he has a girlfriend. I found that real cool." De Jesus would watch the whole thing, hit rewind, then watch it again.

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