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Remembering Stuart Gordon: Sometimes, You Should Meet Your Heroes

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There’s an previous adage that claims you need to by no means meet your heroes — however whoever got here up with that didn’t know Stuart Gordon.

The director identified for such cult classics as “Re-Animator,” “From Past” and “Dolls” died Tuesday evening in Van Nuys, Calif., from a number of organ failure at age 72. He’s survived by his brother, David George Gordon, his spouse, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon; daughters Suzanna, Jillian and Margaret Gordon; 4 grandchildren and a numerous variety of followers and protégés who adored the worlds and characters he dropped at life.

It’s a really unusual factor to seek out your self buddies with a person you grew up idolizing. Often I don’t advocate it; it’s asking for disappointment. I don’t know what prompted me to first lease that VHS copy of “Re-Animator” with buddies in highschool; it in all probability had one thing to do with the intense inexperienced coloration on the field, the colour of the reagent serum that will carry useless our bodies (and cats) again to life. And we had been in all probability all too younger to be watching one thing so delightfully sick and twisted, however that was a recurring motif in Gordon’s movies — he advised tales you felt had been made just for you. To today, Gordon stays the one artist I consider has introduced justice to H.P. Lovecraft tales on the display with the “Re-Animator” films and “From Past.”

Flash-forward about 25 years later and Gordon managed to show that scrappy, bizarre, humorous, tragic indie film right into a scrappy, bizarre, humorous, tragic musical in a small theater in Los Angeles. “Re-Animator: The Musical” had no enterprise being nearly as good because it was, however the play was a large hit — profitable the LA Weekly Award for finest musical, occurring to play the New York Musical Theatre Competition and the Edinburgh Fringe pageant in Scotland in 2012. I first went to see it, appropriately sufficient, on Easter Sunday in 2011 and even sat within the “splatter zone” — the primary three rows the place the viewers would usually get gore and stage blood sprayed throughout them. There’s a photograph I like of me coated in goo, my garments stained pink, and I’ve by no means regarded happier.

I had interviewed Gordon two years prior when he was directing his “Re-Animator” star Jeffrey Combs within the acclaimed one-man present “Nevermore: An Night with Edgar Allen Poe.” They’d been humorous and charming and I believe I had stored my fangirl notions in examine. I went to congratulate Gordon on “Re-Animator” and started to reintroduce myself to him — in any case, we had solely met as soon as, briefly, beneath skilled circumstances. He immediately stopped me, saying, “In fact I bear in mind you. How are your dad and mom in Oregon?”

I’m unsure how a friendship blossomed from there, however it occurred very organically as I valued his knowledge, kindness and his superior restaurant suggestions.  I’ve lengthy realized that the horror group is made up of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet. Perhaps they get all of it out of their work? It’s a cliché to name somebody a teddy bear or a mild large, however that’s how Stuart felt to me. There have been no airs, no pretense, and also you had been at all times his equal. He went out of his strategy to help me, coming to see my play “A Form of Love Story” when it premiered and calling me the following day with considerate, real reward and useful notes. He even got here to a night of horrible quick movies to see a film I’d written; a destiny I wouldn’t want on a few of my enemies. (For these not within the quick movie world, that is the equal of driving a pal to the airport.)

Then, in 2014 I had the nice fortune to work with Stuart on the play “Style,” which had its world premiere at Sacred Fools Theatre Firm. It happened so merely; we had been having lunch and discussing one other play of his after I mentioned I used to be in search of a superb Halloween present. He advised me about “Style,” penned by Benjamin Model, which was loosely based mostly on a loopy true story: two males meet alone and agree that one will eat the opposite.

I bear in mind handing it to my pal Ben Rock, a fellow fan who was on the Inventive Committee of the theater. My precise phrases had been: “This script is superb and you’ll by no means do it.” A day later, Ben made it his mission to get the play mounted at Sacred Fools. I’ve labored with a number of heralded administrators through the years however what I observed about Stuart is how a lot he didn’t name consideration to himself. He trusted his forged, he knew what he needed, and he by no means felt the necessity to yell or showboat and even elevate his voice. Although I finally labored little or no on the present, it stays one among my favourite experiences in theater. There have been so some ways this present might have gone incorrect, however it didn’t. What feels like both an inexpensive gimmick or outright lunacy turned out to be a fancy, lovely story about loneliness and connection because of the script and course. Amongst a number of of the awards the play obtained, Stuart was named finest director by the Stage Uncooked Awards.


It shouldn’t come as a shock if you already know Stuart’s theater background; he was at all times pushing boundaries and utilizing artwork as an announcement. In 1968, the Gordons had been arrested on obscenity costs over a manufacturing of “Peter Pan” they staged to protest the Vietnam Warfare. One among my favourite tales he would inform was about his play “The Recreation Present,” through which viewers members had been actually locked inside a theater and made to consider they had been in peril. Stuart would chuckle as he recalled his favourite assessment, “It mentioned, ‘That is essentially the most thrilling theater I’ve ever seen, and it needs to be closed instantly.’” (Carolyn was additionally not a fan; she briefly broke up with him over the present.)

Stuart based the Natural Theater Firm in Chicago, the place actors from Dennis Franz and Joe Mantegna thrived and which premiered such seminal works as David Mamet’s “Sexual Perversity in Chicago.” In 2005, Gordon directed a movie model of Mamet’s play “Edmond,” starring William H. Macy within the title function, and it stays a few of Macy’s finest work to this point.

On high of being a superb artist, Stuart was a devoted household man, nonetheless head over heels in love together with his spouse and collaborator Carolyn after greater than 50 years — they met once they had been 18 and Stuart by accident drunk-dialed her. He may very well be a person of few phrases at instances, however not when it got here to speaking about his three daughters and grandchildren. Whenever you noticed him with your loved ones you all of the sudden understood how the “Re-Animator” man additionally made such candy movies as “The Magical Ice Cream Go well with” and created the “Honey, I Shrunk the Children” franchise.

He was somebody who different superb folks flocked to. I’ve met so many exceptional people by means of him and while you meet somebody who is aware of him, it’s like talking a particular code. Graham Skipper, who starred in “Re-Animator: The Musical,” advised me there’s a preferred expression amongst his buddies: “All roads lead again to Stuart Gordon.” He helped, inspired, promoted and gave alternatives to so many individuals.

I do know I’m a greater artist and a greater individual due to the time I spent with Stuart. And whereas I’m unhappy his distinctive, great imaginative and prescient is gone, I do know his affect will proceed on, not solely within the movies and filmmakers he influenced, however the folks he leaves behind.


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