Andy Sidaris is our kind of guy. The 73-year-old film director, an SMU alumnus who has shot many of his movies in Dallas, is no Martin Scorsese — but he sure seems to know how to have a good time.
Not familiar with Andy’s films? Watch this scene from Hard Ticket to Hawaii — it’ll tell you all you need to know. That’s right; Andy did “Snakes in a Toilet” when Snakes on a Plane was a twinkle in David Ellis’ eye.
Joe Swanberg of FilmBrats sums up the Sidaris canon well:
I remember my first Andy Sidaris film like it was yesterday. I was a pimple-faced teen working at Hollywood Video and Return To Savage Beach appeared on the new release wall. After staring at the box for 10 minutes, I decided I should rent the movie. I figured the big breasted, bikini clad babes who fought crime as the members of the L.E.T.H.A.L. Force would be good for a laugh. Laugh I did, but there was something more to these movies. I got the distinct sense that the filmmakers knew the kind of movie they were producing, and were having fun with it.
Joe went on to develop the Andy Sidaris Hi-Five.
There are other things to like about Andy. Like Cathy and me, Andy and his wife Arlene have also managed to build a husband-and-wife business with no one getting killed — at least not yet.
Andy hasn’t directed a “guns and babes” film in nearly 10 years, but is having a career resurgence with Spike TV’s Beer Goggle Theater and a nicely packaged DVD collection. He’s also making a new flick in which “the snake that was killed in Hard Ticket to Hawaii laid an egg prior to its death. This egg is hatched and just like its mother, this huge, cancerous-infected python is mad as hell!”
Here’s our interview with Andy Sidaris.
MO: So, how is it working with your wife, Arlene?
Andy: When we did the first film together, Hard Ticket to Hawaii, it was often embarrassing to be in the same room with us. The arguments were pretty fierce. Little by little, we got past our differences, realizing that together we were a pretty strong force and that we each could complement the other’s attributes. I’m not saying that today we never disagree, but we are way more civilized.
MO: You started out in sports TV, right?
Andy: My TV career started in Dallas when I was 19 years old. In 1960 I directed a children’s show, The Magic Land of AllaKazam, which aired on CBS & ABC for 6 years. In 1960 Roone Arledge called from ABC Sports. He hired me as their first contract director for that company. My career there lasted for 28 years, at which point I had directed over 500 football games; AFL, NFL and NCAA. I also directed hundreds of basketball games & various events for Wide World of Sports. In fact I directed the first Wide World of Sports show in 1961.
MO: How and why did you transition to film directing?
Andy: The career was very rewarding for me. In fact, I was able to garner 7 Emmys for my work. However, it wasn’t enough. Living in Hollywood, I decided I wanted to get into the movie business as well. My production company, The Sidaris Company, was doing numerous film shows for Wide World of Sports and several film specials for ABC on racing. It was natural that I segue to my first movie in 1969 entitled The Racing Scene, starring James Garner. This was gratifying to me because it got me hooked on filmmaking.
MO: Tell us about your first “guns and babes” film, 1973’s Stacey.
Andy: With my film production company, I hooked up with Roger Corman. We each put up $37,500 for a total of $75,000. I directed and produced and co-owned Stacey. This film had over 3,000 theatrical playdates in the US. It also did very well in the international market. The film did quite well for me and for Roger. Obviously, Stacey was a ‘guns ‘n babes’ flick. It set me on the path to do 13 more films in that genre.
MO: Your career really took off 12 years later, with Malibu Express.
Andy: I wrote, produced and directed Seven in 1978, starring Rich Man, Poor Man’s William Smith. I also directed TV episodes such as Kojak and Nancy Drew Mysteries (produced by my wife, Arlene Sidaris). This was such damn hard work that I realized if I was going to do films, I might as well own them.
During the period between making Stacey and Malibu Express, I was working night and day for ABC Sports. I was directing and producing football, Wide World of Sports and Head Drector of several Olympics. I finally got around to doing Malibu Express in 1984. I did it in conjunction with Playboy Enterprises. We each put up $250,000. When the opportunity arose, I bought them out & made a distribution deal with Universal Home Video.
The success of the Universal distribution, laid the groundwork for me to create a brand name for The Andy Sidaris Collection that includes Malibu Express and 11 additional films. Universal only had the home video rights, so cable and worldwide television became extremely important to us. We started out in late night and after just a few seasons, ended up on prime time on both HBO and Showtime because the audiences discovered us and loved us.
MO: After Malibu, you made a series of films in the ’80s and ’90s. How did you settle on your casts?
Andy: I realized the popularity of Playboy magazine and the recognizability the name had around the world. Later, after I met Julie Strain, I included Penthouse Pets. We liked the Playmates because we knew they had experience in front of the camera, but we also considered their athletic prowess when casting.
We got lucky with Playmates Dona Speir, Hope Marie Carlton, Cynthia Brimhall and Roberta Vasquez in casting our leads, along with about 15 other Playmates who played supporting roles. Each and every one of them got with the program. They were talented, athletic, loyal, dedicated and had a damn good time working for us.
MO: When you were directing those movies, did you have a timer in your head that said, “Every five minutes, I need either blood or a nude scene?” It seems like clockwork.
Andy: In making a movie, the most important thing you can do is to keep the action moving as you tell the story. We don’t do long, drawn out scenes with underlying psychological bs. We set the story, set the pace and move on. We know people like our style. And, yes, we throw in nudity whenever possible and augment it with a whole bunch of chases, explosions and gunshots. What I’m trying to say is, even though our movies run 94-98 minutes, we always have over 200 scenes in each movie…much more than most other movies.
MO: What was your strategy for marketing, promotion and distribution? You’ve done a great job of getting your films noticed.
Andy: As a team, I am an Emmy Award winning TV Sports pioneer. Arlene is an accomplished TV executive and producer of TV movies and the TV series, Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. Combine those qualities with the surprising entertainment value of these films, and the fact that we’re pretty nice folks, and the response of the TV and print media is strong.
MO: You must like Dallas — I believe you’ve set one or more of your films there.
Andy: Boy, do I like Dallas. I went to college there. I graduated from SMU. It’s where I began my TV career. We film there and in Shreveport and Bossier City, Louisiana. We also love filming in Arizona, especially in Lake Havasu and Sedona, as well as California. Las Vegas has been a great place for us to film. The people are great and the city is dynamite. Of course, last but not least are the islands of Hawaii, Oahu, Molokai & Maui. Molokai is where most of our damage is done. It’s offbeat and secluded. The people love us and we’re able to make beautiful films there.
MO: What do you think about the critics’ reviews of your films?
Andy: Check in at www.andysidaris.com & click News. You’ll see loads of great reviews. In fact, if you check TV Guide, IMDB, Netflix you’ll see some pretty good touts for our films. On the rare occasion that we get criticized, I shrug it off thinking that they simply didn’t get the joke.
MO: What are you and Arlene up to these days?
Andy: Arlene and I are very fortunate that all 12 movies in The Andy Sidaris Collection are represented by Warner Bros. for worldwide cable and television distribution. They have done a wonderful job for us and we know we’re the only small company who has an association with a company of its stature…
As you probably know, our films are now playing every Friday night on SPIKE-TV. Warner Bros. made this deal for us. These 12 movies have been edited to 86 minutes, taking out approximately 10 minutes. They’re still a hell of a lot of fun and I think will entice fans to want to buy the “R” rated versions of these films. For more information on the dvd’s click on www.andysidaris.com & click on Products.
We also have my autobiography (of sorts) available. I personally autograph each copy of the book purchased from our Web site. The title is “Bullets, Bombs & Babes” published by Heavy Metal, available at comic book and specialty stores and at www.andysidaris.com. All purchases from our Web site arrive with an autographed photo.
MO: What are your future plans?
Arlene and I have taken a hiatus in order to get up to speed on our company and our ongoing projects. We are now ready to get back into production. I’ve written a pretty exciting outline for BattleZone Hawaii with all the usual ingredients; many exotic locations, fabulous explosions, extraordinarily beautiful Playboy Playmates and Penthouse Pets, extremely handsome men; some of whom can’t shoot straight but their hearts are in the right place and, most importantly, the snake that was killed in Hard Ticket to Hawaii, laid an egg prior to its death. This egg is hatched and just like its mother this huge, cancerous-infected python is mad as hell!!! Wow! I can’t wait to see this movie.
Neither can we, Andy.