Unlikely Tribeca Star Gary Coleman: 'This Movie is a Little Harsh'
The Tribeca Marathon officially became thrilling Saturday, when my festival rounds brought me face-to-face with perhaps the event's unlikeliest leading man. I found Gary Coleman -- the Gary Coleman -- killing some time at a pre-premiere party for his film Midgets vs. Mascots, touted by its makers as a "shockumentary" in the vein of Jackass and Borat. The title speaks for itself; a squad of little people including Coleman, porn star Gidget the Midget and others square off against a team of costumed nemeses for a coveted cash prize. Not Oscar material, but amusing enough from the previews available online. Amusing, that is, for seemingly everyone but Gary Coleman.
As his popular co-stars -- masked and otherwise -- roamed the bar just across the street from the premiere's red carpet, Coleman hung out quietly in the back with his wife and a quesadilla wedge. It didn't take long to gauge his distaste for the enterprise as a whole.
How are you feeling about the premiere tonight? Are you getting excited yet?
Uh, I'm not really into this, really. I'm just here because they wanted me here. I'll do the red carpet or whatever, say hello to people. But no, the movie's not my thing.
It's one of those jobs you do to pay the mortgage.
I've only seen the trailer, but it looks sort of funny. It seems like it has a pretty crowd-pleasing sensibility.
Well, I'll just have to take your word for it. I don't have any information about it, either.
You haven't seen any of it?
How was the production, then? At least from what I've seen, you didn't take any shit from anybody.
That's me in general. I'm one of those people who doesn't have time for nonsense. Shooting this movie? Being an independent film by newbies who hadn't produced or financed a film ever? There was a learning curve for everybody. It was hard.
But as a seasoned veteran, how often did you provide advice?
Constantly. You know, like plan your days better, plan your shoots better -- have a better plan to get what they want during the day. But of course it falls on deaf ears.
Was that from the first day, or did that stress compound slowly during the shoot?
It just became more stressful.
Did it ever improve?
At least in the clips I saw, it looked like you got to take your frustrations out on some people.
A lot of that is just scripted and staged. If it had really came down to me beating somebody up, believe me, I'd have done it. We had a script, but the director, Ron Carlson, also shot some ancillary stuff to try and tie the story together more. but it was scripted 60 or 70 percent of the time.
Did you just stop for a second and think, "What the hell am I doing here?"
No, I'm just one of those guys who can show up, hit my marks, say my lines. I ask the director if he likes it. If he doesn't, then I do something different.
It couldn't have been all bad.
Well, Ron brought his favorite cinematographer [Marc Carter], and he's from L.A. I live in Utah, but technically I'm an actor from L.A. We had a couple other actors from L.A., and we had a couple crew members from L.A. So between all of that, we were able to get through the picture. We had our professional experience.
Were there any scenes in particular where all that crap just fell away and you were able to enjoy shooting?
I would say maybe 10 days out of that six-week shoot were like that. The scenes were well-written, and we were shooting fast. And I love to shoot fast. It all picked up, and that always makes me happy.
From the start, though, didn't the whole idea of midgets vs. mascots seems pretty... exploitative?
Yeah, I hate that word. "Midget." I'm a little embarrassed, because I'm always trying to uplift small people, or little people, so big people will notice that our lives aren't just something to be laughed at or make fun of. And this movie is a little harsh, and that's why I'm not that hot on the film.
So have you considered making your own films?
I don't know if I'll ever make a film of my own or not. I know I have the opportunity, I just don't know what I'd do. I mean, I would love the opportunity, but right now it's not something I'm that interested in. It's a lot of work to try and put together a film, and finance a film, and get the film done, and that's a headache I really don't want to deal with.
Would such diminishing returns ever compel to just do something else entirely?
I do have my Internet portal, GaryColemanWorld.com. I'm an Internet business owner, and I'm also a retailer. You can go there and shop 'til you drop. You can buy scented candles, you can look at the entire Amway catalog. And eventually there will be trains on there; that's my favorite hobby. ♦