We talk to the man behind GetEven. Aka Road To Revenge. Aka Champagne and Bullets. Aka the greatest satanic cult action film to feature line dancing that you’ve ever seen.
Some of the best cult films are the result of one person’s vision. In the case of GetEven, it is the sole vision of lawyer-turned-actor (and writer/producer/composer/singer/director) John De Hart.
Ahead of our charity screening of the film, we were lucky enough to speak to the man himself and ask him about how he came to make the film, his love of singing, working with Wings Hauser and if he’ll even stand in front (or behind) the camera again.
Thanks again to John for allowing us to screen the film. We’re pretty sure this is the UK premiere!
WARNING: This interview contains SPOILERS for GetEven.
Hi John – thanks so much for doing this interview ahead of our screening!
My pleasure. Anything to help the human race.
Before we start talking about GetEven, I wanted to find out more about yourself. You’re a lawyer now, and by all accounts, you were before you made the film, so is acting something you always wanted to do? Or does your passion lie with the law?
Well, actually I wasn’t a lawyer when we first shot the first draft of the movie. I actually became a lawyer after we’d finished it. I’d been in law school, but at that time I wasn’t actually practicing law.
You mentioned the first draft of the movie – I know you shot most of it in 1993 and did some re-shoots in 2007, so I think that’s where a lot of confusion comes from regarding the film as it can be found under several titles – GetEven, Road To Revenge and Champagne and Bullets. Can you explain the difference between all of them?
The movie was shot in 1993 like you said, and the first go-through was called Champagne and Bullets and it’s actually 10 mins longer than the finished product and contains the full Shakespeare soliloquy rather than just a snippet. It also has the full spa scene with me and Pamela (Jean-Bryant) and my song, ‘I’ll Be With You’ – that I really like.
It’s a rougher version and lacked sufficient exteriors as I’d never shot a movie before, so I was relying on a lot of other people. So, in order to make it a better product and to include the exteriors and after some experience with the distributors, I put in the exteriors. It’s supposed to be a surrealistic movie – it was shot a year before Pulp Fiction, but has been compared to that film for its surrealistic qualities.
You’ve got to see Road To Revenge. People say it’s better than GetEven. I like GetEven a little more because it has a little more exposition. The foundation for the marital arts process and some more comic relief with my beautiful lost soul Pinky the black belt poodle. So, it’s been a work in process.
So Champagne and Bullets was a shorter first draft of the film?
No, actually Champagne and Bullets was 100 minutes long – 10 minutes longer than the final version. I’ve got a number of things in Champagne and Bullets that you’ll never see unless you find a copy of the film on VCR.
But Champagne and Bullets didn’t have the exteriors and the credits weren’t of high quality, so I re-edited it and took some things out that people advised and that the distributors didn’t like – the first go-through was more brutal, more descriptive…
More baby sacrificing?
That scene was a little longer! So I cut them down and the distributor said that assorted markets would have problems with parts of the film, so I modified it a little bit, but the original cut is around here somewhere on tape. The sound is not as good, the credits aren’t as good – so I felt like I upgraded it each time and that’s how it’s morphed into GetEven today – but that’s the Disneyland version.
So there’s three different edits of the film since you started?
Yes – the final version has more exposition in it to explain the more surrealistic aspects of it, because not many people were getting Road To Revenge, but with GetEven we filled in a lot of those gaps, but like I said, I know people that like Road To Revenge better. It’s a matter of taste, but for the general market, I think GetEven is the best one.
So when you were writing, producing and putting the film together – what action films influenced you? Were you a fan of any particular action movies growing up?
No, it all came out of my vision for that film. I just got tired of not being hired as a lead actor. So I put out 16 pages, kept adding to it and then shot the script! That’s what you’ve got to do, you can’t rely on anyone else.
One aspect of the script I wanted to ask you about was the inclusion of satanic cults. This is a long time after the Manson murders, so was something going on in L.A. when you wrote this that inspired you?
Actually, the movie is loosely based on a true story. I’ve always had a limo and had various drivers and one night I was talking to one of my drivers – a 20 year old young lady, nice looking – and one night she started crying and told me she’d actually witnessed what I put in the movie. She’d actually seen it.
She witnessed it in Riverside County. She was crying so much and scared, but I really didn’t know how much to believe, because it’s off the wall to be talking about stuff like that. She said she went to a cult gathering and they’d killed a baby and this was 20 miles from my house.
Since she was crying so much, I decided I wasn’t going to push her on it. She pretty much blurted out that she was scared and wanted to get away from them and it blew my mind. I wanted to talk her through it, but not that night as she was so emotional and as she drove for me a couple of times a week, I figured I’d see her later – but she was dead the next weekend.
She was dead?!
Her boyfriend and her were on a motorcycle and they were t-boned on the freeway, kind of like what’s in the movie. As far as I know they never found who did it. So I believed what she told me was the truth and that’s what happened, but I haven’t delved into it much further. But that was where the movie came from – that, plus some dramatic licence. Kind of an inspirational situation.
I can imagine. You said at the time you were a struggling actor before you made the film, but were you also a singer as you sing on the entire soundtrack?
My voice comes from five years of church choir and I can sing – my voice covers about three octaves. I can bang out a song.
As we hear throughout the film!
Yes, ‘I’ll Be With You’, which I really like is throughout the film – noticeably the Jacuzzi scene and then the ‘Shimmy Slide’- everyone likes the ‘Shimmy Slide’.
Everyone loves the ‘Shimmy Slide’!
Well, it’s got a nice little story and a great little beat. I actually bought the song for the movie and put my vocals on it.
So you didn’t write the ‘Shimmy Slide’?
I didn’t – so of the other songs, such as the duet, I had a hand in writing those songs, but the ‘Shimmy Slide’ – I bought it. It’s mine, I own it, it’s my copyright, it was specifically designed for that scene.
And the line dancers – were they friends of yours?
We hired some people to put a dance together. They weren’t friends – in those days, it took an army to make a movie. We had a 100 people around. Someone knew someone, so that person choreographed the Shimmy Slide.
So was your production quite small compared to a studio film? More like a guerrilla production or a student film where you were grabbing shots where you could?
No, no, no – we shot for 20 days. I got Wings Hauser, William Smith and Pamela Jean Bryant – who did a hell of a job – professional people. So, we shot it like a professional movie.
I was going to say, Wings Hauser was quite a established actor by then – did you essentially give him free reign as he seems to be ad-libbing a lot of his scenes.
If he liked my lines, he said them and if he didn’t, he didn’t. He interpreted the character and threw stuff in, so you can’t tell if my funny stuff is his funny stuff. I didn’t rein him in much, just so long as he stayed the course – shall we say.
In the scene before ‘Judge Normad’, Wings stuck to the script when he commented on the judge’s dress. He was using my lines including “What you need is pearls and pantyhose’ and you’ll be perfect.”
Most of Huck’s funny lines were from the script, but the day we shot him in the swimming pool, I had a bad back (which is why I couldn’t dance as well as I can normally during the Shimmy Slide) – but I wasn’t there for that scene, so it’s somewhat quirky. Wings is actually a writer, like his father, so on one hand William Smith and Pamela Jean Bryant were word perfect line on my script, but Wings liked to improvise a bit.
I think the scene where you go ask him to be your best man and he’s stood in a swimming pool with two women highlights that.
He delivered the jokes on that scene – so it was alright.
As you said, Pamela Jean Bryant was fantastic, so how did you go about casting a former Playboy model to be your wife?
Well, I had nothing to do with it. I probably auditioned a 100 women or more and I couldn’t find anyone that I thought was any good for what I wanted. I went through a bunch of books at a SAG agency, saw her and called her agent. She came out and she was perfect as Cindy.
How close are you to the character of Rick Bode as you created the character for yourself? How much similarity is there – do you do martial arts? Is his wardrobe your own? You said Pinky the dog was actually your own and you drove a limo – so is there much difference between you and Rick?
Well, actually Pinky just passed away. We buried her yesterday – she’s a sweetheart. I have two other dogs, so I love dogs – but I’m not in jail! If I did what Rick did, I’d probably be in jail.
And Rick’s fighting skills? Do you do martial arts?
Oh yeah, I do martial arts – kung fu, I’m a black belt in tae kwon do, I’ve studied Shodokan. My first martial art was boxing, so I can do what I need to do!
And Pinky also had a black belt…
Ha! Well, let’s just say she’s the first dog I know to get a black belt in a movie. She was a great athlete and if dogs did martial arts, she would fly! She was a sweetheart. You don’t get any better.
So when you released the film, did it get a theatrical release or did you just put it out on VHS and what was the critical reaction?
It’s been in a few theatres, but the reaction you get when you release a film where you’re the star, director and you get the girl, do the music, kicks the shit out of 20 guys and kills 13 – you can guess the reaction it got. The bottom line is you get a certain amount of resistance – and I think I’ll leave it at that.
But you must admit it’s developed quite a cult following. You even went to a sold out screening in LA in 2013 at The Cinefamily – what was it like to see that fan reaction?
That was amazing. That was the loudest building I’ve ever seen in. Louder than the Celtics and the Lakers. It was amazing, I had a great time.
How do you feel about the film cult reputation in that it’s mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Miami Connection, which is a throwback to 80s action and was also one man’s vision. How does that make you feel?
Well, I made the film to be seen and forward my theatrical career, but I love the fact that people enjoy it. I dealt with so many issues in the film – religion, judicial incompotence, police brutality, domestic violence (before O.J.!) and threw in the martial arts , because I have trained in them and if I’m going to go after somebody, I’d use them. I really wasn’t aware of cult films when I made it, but it’s all good.
And in 2013 at the Cinefamily screening, I believe you mentioned there was a script for GetEven 2? Is that still a possibility?
Well, I have another script which is a street cop drama. It might get made. We’ll see, it’s not on the front burner with me at this point. I’ll make it if I can make something that I feel is up to at least what I did before. I treat that film seriously and I know a lot of people have fun with it, which is cool, but it was a serious exercise and we did it in a professional fashion.
So, if the stars line up – it’ll get made.
As far as it being GetEven 2, I don’t want to dampen the conversation, but since Pamela passed away (Ed – Pamela Jean Bryant died in 2010) and William’s slowed down and Wings… he’s ready if I put something together, but it would be different. It’s a different time and too many worldly things have interceded.
Plus you’re a full time lawyer these days…
I’m not a full time lawyer, I’m semi-retired.
You still acting at all?
All the world is a stage, Ti! You know that! I’m trying to follow in the footsteps of my hero William Shakespeare. He was great. I hate writing, but he must have loved it as what he put out in his 53 years was amazing. I’m still flirting with the movie business and am still available, but I’m not exactly knocking down doors at this point.
Considering you’re such a fan of Shakespeare, I now want to see the longer version of your soliloquy.
I’m got it lying around here somewhere. I’d be glad to send you a version if I find it. It’s much grainier and darker. I wanted the movie to have a grainy look, but as I recall, Champagne and Bullets is a little ‘moodier’.
The film has some serious messages in there, such as the domestic violence subplot, but I wish you luck with the screening and God Save The Queen!
John, thanks very much.