Part 4: Aftermath

Silvia: After it happen, I immediately went to the Special Effect man and I take him by the t-shirt and I say, “why you don’t’ stop it?” And he say, “because he [Stephen] didn’t say stop.” And then I run to Stephen King and I yelled very close to his face, “WHY YOU DIDN’T SAY STOP?” But he was unable to answer. He was shocked. Then we stop the movie for two weeks because we didn’t know if Armando was able to work again or not. He got the surgery and, after one week, he got second surgery and then he came back. And he came with a…the bandage. How do you call?

Joe: An eye-patch.

Silvia: Yes, like a pirate.

Joe: Yeah, think John Ford.

Armando and Laura

Silvia: But he came back after two weeks and I was taking care of him every day. Because I was like a daughter for him. He was doing medication with special drops and I was medicating him every day. And I have to say that Martha Schumacher—the wife of Dino De Laurentiis—was very nice. Taking care of us, because we were a little bit disoriented. Can you imagine? She paid a lot of attention. She was nice, very nice.

Martha: We all felt terrible. And responsible. You know, if anything goes bad on a set it’s ultimately the producer that needs to take the responsibility. And it’s just really unfortunate that this happened.

Silvia: But when Armando came back, we continued to work. And, I do not know why, but the atmosphere was…there was not a sad atmosphere.

Joe: Because we didn’t know the extent. It wasn’t conclusive how bad the damage was. I remember it being more like a “hopefully it’ll heal” type of thing.

Martha: For him coming back—with a positive attitude and a great sense of humor—that just kind of shows what kind of a person Armando is, and what kind of a professional he is. And we showed that kindness right back to him and his family.

Silvia: At the beginning, the doctors think Armando was able to recover. But in reality, it was not. Because it got damaged. You have to imagine that the iris is like a clock. If you have a damage from 12 to 4, they can repair it. But he got the damage from 12 to 8 and was impossible to rebuild it. And for years, Armando was [deep sigh] damage very big because when he came back to Italy he couldn’t work like before. Because director were thinking he was not able to work any more without an eye. Because he lost the depth of field. But in reality he continued to work very well. I think he was working better, because losing the depth of field he was putting more attention to the lighting. But it was very sad because he could not get so much work. Not because of the accident, but because of enemies. Many colleagues who did not like Armando because he was the best. They were putting a bad word against him. So Armando Nannuzzi was sad not because the eye, but because the colleagues were playing very bad with him. And he think: I am old and now my career is at an end.

Martha: Even today, I feel a bit of guilt that he had to suffer that. But it doesn’t change anything. His medical and his financial situation were paramount; that he be treated correctly. So I certainly hope I didn’t take anything away from his quality of life. And I’m sure Stephen feels the same way too. He just, he just was great.

Silvia: After he return, there was also a very beautiful thing that happened. It was interesting, because Stephen King and Armando Nannuzzi were born the same day. And so when Armando came back, we celebrate this birthday. And the Special Effect was organizing a very special surprise for them.

Drawbridge SFX

Roberto: And remember, Stephen King loved anything involving special effects.

Silvia: We were in the gas station and the Special Effect come over with two controls. They gave to Armando one control and they gave to Stephen King the other control. And they say, “This is our gift. I count to three and then you pull.” Okay, they understand. “One. Two. Three” Then Armando Nannuzzi and Stephen King pull it and fireworks go up. They were controlling fireworks. And every time they were pushing, a firework was exploding. Very beautiful moment.

Martha: I think there was just something nice about being in North Carolina. There was a little bit more relaxed feeling. The cast and crew, they didn’t have the pressure of anything else in the world and they could just make their movie. And I think everyone enjoyed being back there.

Hurricane Day

Laura: There was a very nice atmosphere. It was really fun to be sort of castaways. Especially when we had the hurricane come down.

Silvia: Gloria. I remember the name was Gloria. And we were shooting ‘til the last moment. I remember the atmosphere. We were shooting in a port and the sky was very dark and the atmosphere was very bad. And then was starting to rain. And then we continued to shoot inside the stage. And I remember that people were excited, that they were going outside to do a competition: who was able to cross the street from one stage to another one. It was very dangerous, but they enjoy. And we continue to work until the production stop. Then they organize to go to Hilton Hotel, which was a big building.

Laura: We had to get into this emergency hotel. Everyone stuck all together.

Silvia: And it was a very strange atmosphere because I remember each room we had a window with the tape. The staff of the hotel came into each room and put the mattress like a barricade. It was a kind of like bad dream. But because everyone were young, we stay together and have a lot of joy.

Laura: We did have a lot of fun in the hotel. And we were all together. It was very fun, actually. With everyone thinking it was all going to blow apart. But then it didn’t. And the hurricane passed. It was kind of anticlimactic.

Miniature Cars

But before production ended there was a semi-climactic moment. Or at least a different moment—of death and destruction—that everyone fondly remembers. 

Silvia: I remember one night, Stephen King was renting an entire cinema. A cinema with two screens. He wanted that all the crew was there to watch two movies that was the favorite of him. One was Godzilla, of the 1950s. And the other one was the Night of the Living Dead. He get popcorn for all of us and then we were watching the movies with commentary with him. You can’t imagine watching Godzilla—the original one, the Japanese one—with the comment of Stephen King. Was something incredible.

Laura: There were a lot of good times like that. And I have very fond memories of making that movie. But there was definitely a point where we all kind of knew what this movie was going to be.

Martha: Whether it didn’t have enough of a story, of an emotional hook, I don’t know.

Laura: Because the script was what it was. Everything just felt a bit…off. None of us really felt like we got the story. I don’t think there was anybody that had the feeling that this was going to work.

Martha: But it’s a fun movie. I mean, the first scene in the movie is Stephen going to an ATM—an old-fashioned ATM machine—it eats his stuff and he’s just being Stephen King Southern. That, to me, was really the tone of the movie. Did we do the wrong tone? Maybe. But that’s the sensibility that Stephen wanted to translate at that time of telling that story. And I think he delivered what he wanted to make.

Headline- Stephen King Crashes in Maximum Overdrive

Part 5: 2 + 2 = (Anything But) 4

Maximum Overdrive was originally slated for release in March 1986. But Stephen King thought this timing was a mistake. So the distributor (MGM) agreed to delay the release until the summer if King were willing to do a publicity tour for the film. He obliged—doing things like starring in the film’s trailer and VJ-ing on MTV for a week. But even so, the press was not enough to save this film. 

On July 25, 1986, Maximum Overdrive hit theaters and was met with terrible reviews and lousy box offices numbers. In the following years, the Master of Horror hadn’t had much to say about the film until a 2002 interview with Tony Magistrale where King stated that he was “coked out of [his] mind all through its production, and really didn’t know what [he] was doing.”

Silvia: He was using cocaine? This is a new for me. I did not realize it. But could be possible. I was very young and I was paying attention to my work.

Roberto: Remember, this was the 80’s. Everyone was on coke. But with Stephen King? No, I never saw. I didn’t. But I did know that he was drunk. That 6 o’clock in the morning we have a roll call and he’s drinking beers. And by 8:30, he’s on his 10th beer.

Silvia: But now that you mention this, maybe it makes sense. Every night we came to see the dailies and we were watching every take. And Stephen King was very bored. He was getting bored because the dailies were two hours. And now that you tell me this quote, I imagine that, with cocaine inside, two hours sitting is very long.

Martha: I didn’t know that. And perhaps he was just very good at hiding that. I don’t know. I don’t know. But he’s certainly come out of that.

Silvia: And now I also think of one more think. I remember there was fighting once between Armando and Stephen King. Not understanding something technical. So Armando was screaming very much and Stephen King was laughing because Armando was speaking Italian. Then shouting kind of gets physical. Primordial, like the animals do. But Stephen King, still, he does not stop laughing. He just keep laughing, more and more and more.

Laura: In retrospect, I really liked that Stephen and I were kind of innocent through the whole thing. Though I’m sure it would have been to his benefit if I had been a little more savvy. That’s why I still feel guilty about my performance. Because it was just not in my nature, to run around with a machine gun. Like, I was sort of the serious New York actor and I feel like I didn’t bring the right spirit to it, you know? I was always in the circle of very big and famous people, and I was always expected to be…  But I just didn’t have big enough…it was very early 80s…and I just didn’t have the body…or the knowledge about being that kind of girl. And I didn’t know how to play that part. I knew how to do the bohemian raw emotional actress. But I didn’t really get how to be the It Girl.

Martha: She was great. Laura was great.

Laura: A few years after this, I did What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? And Lars Holmstrom would send me off into the middle of some field to wait for the time that he wanted me to come into the scene. And during that time, like in the field, I would start thinking about stories. Then one night, I was having dinner with the producer, and I said, “I think I should find a writer because I’m having all these movies out there in the field.” And he said, “No, I think that means you are a writer.” And he was right. Because that leap towards my own personal fame that I thought I would get for being an actress, it finally came as a writer.

Joe: You just never know how things are going to turn out. Like on Maximum Overdrive, all the actors were pretty friendly and outgoing and I remember chitchatting with Yardley Smith at some point towards the end of production. She was telling me about some little animated thing that she was going to be doing on this thing called The Tracey Ulman Show. It sounded odd but, you know, that turned out to be The Simpsons.

Chip: It’s funny. Because, in the film class I teach, I recently shared my opinion that Maximum Overdrive is one of the worst movies ever made—which I don’t say maliciously, I just find it hard to watch. And some of my students wanted to argue, saying they liked it. So, in the end, it really comes down to a matter of taste. Though it sounds like at least Stephen King agrees with me!

Martha: Stephen, he did a great job. For him to write the screenplay and direct—you’re the General, you have to answer everyone’s desirable question—and for never having done that before, I think he did a masterful job. And for his tone and sensibilities, he delivered those unique sensibilities. It was his humor. It was kind of how he wrote. I mean, it’s so funny the way that our business measures success. How many theaters? How much ancillary? How much money did you make? There are successful things in other ways. And the way Stephen sets up his stories. He’s master. In a way, we all want to be scared by the Boogeyman. And Stephen is the perfect guy to tell us who that Boogeyman is. I love Stephen. And so did Dino.

Roberto: When Dino died, I went to the funeral dressed completely in red. That was his favorite color. And he said that his funeral was not a death, it was a celebration of life. A success. But it was funny to me, during the eulogies, because many famous people were there and stood up to say some stuff. Small episodes of their life. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, he stood up and said, “I remember when Dino gave me the boat.” This was for Conan. Dino had just bought a beautiful wooden boat from Venezia and Arnold asked: can I have it to go skiing on the lake? And Dino said yeah, yeah, of course. And so, at the funeral, everyone had stories like this. But as soon as the ceremony ends, and every starts walking out, all the people who used to work for him—like Mindy Alberman and Mark DeBacco—we look at each other and we say, “but they don’t know what Dino said last!” Because, okay, Schwarzenegger was allowed to take the boat. But after Dino would say yes, he’d turn around and say to us, “that motherfucker is gonna ruin my boat. It’s a $150,000 fresh-water boat! Fuck Arnold.”

Martha: [laughing] You want to know what 2 plus 2 actually equals in the film business? [laughing again] Anything but four. So whether it comes out on the minus side or the plus side, what you’ve got planned is never going to happen. And so, what I love about this industry— and then you can also apply it to your own life —is anticipating things. Anticipating situations of change or failure and then starting all over with what you now know. And that’s what I think film producing has taught me the most: don’t give up. That’s what Dino was all about. He never gave up. That was Dino. And I still have him here on my shoulder all the time. He’s always here with me; he’s always on my shoulder.

maximum overdrive

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