Christophe Lemonnier : I heard that the original idea for STARCRASH was a different story...
Luigi Cozzi : Yes, about a gigantic spaceship. It was a good story, actually. That was my idea because at that time they made THE CASSANDRA CROSSING and this kind of disaster movies. So, why not try a disaster in space ? That was my idea !
The script was finished ?
I wrote a treatment of 30 pages or 40 pages.
Can you tell us about the story ?
It was about a gigantic spaceship for passengers. It's the first trip to Saturn... To see the shores of the rings. When crossing the rings, the ship hurts a space iceberg and then crashes on Titan, a moon of Saturn. So there's only a few survivors who try to wait for the rescue party who is coming. The story about the survivors was tiny.
Why this story hadn't been transferred to the screen ?
Cause nobody was interested. When I proposed it to Nathan Wachsberger, he was not interested. He called me back after STAR WARS opened in America. He tells me "Luigi, I want... not your story... I want STAR WARS !". I had a problem because it was the end of may 1977 and STAR WARS would open in Italy in november. I knew via the newspapers there was this science-fiction galactic adventure movie in America. But I didn't know how to see it. I didn't know what kind of movie it was. I was very very lucky cause something happened. I found earlier in a bookstore a copy of STAR WARS and I bought it. There was a huge amount of science-fiction books and I bought that one. I don't know why. Anyway when I was told to write something like STAR WARS and I said "No problem !". I read the book and then I knew what STAR WARS was about. When Nathan Wachsberger came to Italy to see what kind of STAR WARS-like story I had to propose him, I had already written the movie STARCRASH.
It was told that the scenario of STARCRASH was written very quickly. Is it true ?
In a very short time because Nathan came from America, he said he would be there in ten days or so and wanted to see the story. I was supposed to show him just three or four pages. But I started to write and I had so much fun in doing it that I ended up with forty or fifty pages for the movie.
Everybody says that STARCRASH is a rip-off of STAR WARS but when you see the movie it seems to be more influenced by the fifties movies like the colored stars or the costumes...
You're absolutely right. But the first thing the producers and the distributors told me was "Luigi ! Do like STAR WARS ! Do like STAR WARS ! Do it !". I knew we couldn't do a picture like STAR WARS because we had no preparation. We only did three or four weeks of preparation before starting to shoot. How can you do a STAR WARS movie with three weeks of preparation ? It was not possible ! So I said the only way I could make a good movie was to do something like a fantasy film. For example the spaceships are not realistic and are rather fantastic. I like the picture from the fifties. I'm very fond of the fifties.
There's also the influence of Ray Harryhausen's adventure movies. When I saw STARCRASH, I recognized elements from JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS and THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD... But also in particular from the fifties there are some kind of FORBIDDEN PLANET influences...
You saw exactly what's in my picture. It was what I wanted to do. But people didn't understand that. They didn't know anything about FORBIDDEN PLANET or about Ray Harryhausen's movies... or anything like that. They only knew and kept telling me "STAR WARS... STAR WARS... STAR WARS...". So there's still something like STAR WARS in it cause I had to ! So I gave up and and I said "Okay ! Let's do it !".
STARCRASH is what you wanted in the beginning ?
It is more or less what I wanted. Cause when I was asked to do this kind of movie, not the disaster movie but a space fantasy, I said "I write STAR WARS". And so it was very much like a Robert Heinlein's juvenile from the fifties. I love those things. And so I made something similar in my way. I put Barbarella in it. Cause I love Barbarella. I also did use novels of A.E. Van Vogt as a model...
Every scene starts with a situation... With a big situation. The scenes must be no longer than three pages. And at the end of the second or third page, the situation must be completely reversed. You see in the movie it keeps changing. A guy disappears then re-appears... It keeps rolling like that. As a basis for the whole story I did pick up a book by a science-fiction writer called "The Secret Of Sinharat". In my opinion at that time, a lady called Leigh Brackett was the biggest science-fiction adventure writer. And George Lucas hired her for the sequel of STAR WARS which means I was not wrong in getting my model. Because she's the lady who invented Yoda or turned Darth Vader into a good guy. She was my model before Lucas hired her !
About the actors, the first choice was Raquel Welch...
Not mine ! But sure... That's true ! The producer wanted Raquel Welch and tried hard to get her.
Is it true that you fought to get Caroline Munro ?
I couldn't fight cause Nathan went to Los Angeles and he was doing the cast there. So I was not involved. I had only phone calls and I said "No, please, don't do that !" about Raquel Welch but he didn't care.
The choice of Marjoe Gortner gave you some problem as he was imposed to you...
Yes, Marjoe Gortner was imposed to me by the distributor American International Pictures. Marjoe Gortner just appeared in a major movie which made a lot of money and so they wanted him in my picture. Well, he's a nice guy I had no problem with him. But in my script, the character he played was an alien like the mutant in THIS ISLAND EARTH. Cause I loved the image of Caroline in bikini between a robot and an alien. She was the only human ! But Marjoe said "No, I want my face on the screen !". I think it would be a better image with Caroline alone with a metal robot and a crab-like alien.
So Marjoe Gortner wanted his face on the screen and you put Judd Hamilton in the armor...
He was put in the armor to... make him shut up... You know ! Because of Caroline, he was always trying to talk about this or talk about that.
(Notes : Judd Hamilton was the husband of Caroline Munro)
It was said there was a sequel to STARCRASH at the time ?
Yes ! There was a second movie of this kind. It was a very unlucky movie because... Mario Bava liked it. He started preparing it and was about to shoot it from my script. What happened is that he was doing it for the same producer as for PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES. They went to the American International Picture which had already bought STARCRASH. And Sam Arkoff told to me when I met him "Luigi, I really loved that one. But the one I love more is the other story ! When Bava came to me with it I would have really loved to do it but I cannot release two pictures very similar at the same time.". So it was not made !
Article made by
Christophe "Arioch" Lemonnier,
Nadia Derradji and
Thanks to CineFX, Neo Publishing, PVB Editions, Le Méliès Theatre and Laurent Lopéré