TRANSCRIPT Switchblade Sisters Ep. 113: ‘Ladyhawke’ with Janet Varney

‘The JV Club’ host Janet Varney joins Katie Walsh to discuss the 1985 fantasy epic Ladyhawke.

Podcast: Switchblade Sisters

Episode number: 113

Guests: Janet Varney

Transcript

music

"Switchblade Comb" by Mobius VanChocStraw. A jaunty, jazzy tune reminiscent of the opening theme of a movie. Music continues at a lower volume as Katie introduces herself and her guest, then fades out.

katie walsh

Hello! And welcome to Switchblade Sisters, the podcast where women get together to slice and dice our favorite action and genre films. Every week here on the podcast, we invite a new female filmmaker on—a writer, director, actor, or producer—and we talk in-depth about their favorite genre films, maybe one that influenced their own work. I'm film critic Katie Walsh, and today we have actor, comedian, writer, producer, Janet Varney!

janet

Hello!

katie

Hello! [Music fades out.] And of course, JV Club host—

crosstalk

Katie: —Janet Varney. Janet: That's true! On the Maximum Fun network! Katie: Yes! Janet: Yes, indeed!

katie

Cross-promote! [Laughs.]

janet

I know, you've gotta come on mine!

katie

Oh, I'd love to!

janet

Mmm-hm! Mm-hm!

katie

So! You guys know who Janet is, but I'm just gonna let us all know who Janet is. [Both laugh.] Janet Varney is an Emmy-nominated actor, comedian, writer, and producer. She most recently starred as the horrible Becca in FXX's You're the Worst, and she created, wrote, and stars in the IFC series Fortune Rookie. JV can also be heard on her podcast The JV Club, as we mentioned, interviewing famous folks about their awkward teen years, and as the sarcastic AI Sorry on the sci-fi comedy podcast Voyage to the Stars. She fought dark forces opposite John C. McGinley on three seasons of IFC's Stan Against Evil, and starred in seasons one and three of Burning Love—obsessed with Burning Love. [Janet laughs.] In the animation world, she was the award-winning voice of Korra on Nickelodeon's critically acclaimed standout hit The Legend of Korra. In addition to numerous guest roles in television and film, both in character and as herself, Janet co-created, co-wrote, and co-produced Neil's Puppet Dreams, a series featuring Neil Patrick Harris and his puppet-filled dreams, and can be seen on Geek and Sundry's Escape!, which she hosted and produced. She's also the co-founder and co-director of SF Sketchfest, the San Francisco comedy festival which is now in its 19th year. NBD.

janet

Wake up, everyone who dozed off during that snore-fest! [Katie cracks up.] Katie—nooo—no insult to you. [Katie keeps laughing.] No insult to you. That was a lot of factoids.

crosstalk

Katie: Lot of factoids! Janet: I love factoids. Katie: We gotta get 'em all, there's a lot going on!

janet

Boy. [Katie laughs.] Boy.

katie

Janet has chosen Richard Donner's 1985 medieval fantasy film Ladyhawke!

janet

[Stifling laughter] That's right.

katie

Janet.

janet

Yes.

katie

Why did you choose Ladyhawke?

janet

The music?

katie

Yes! I—we're gonna talk about the music!

janet

I meeean—I don't know! I mean, I honestly don't know. I never talk about this movie with anyone, so...

katie

So today is a special treat. [Laughs.]

janet

It's a special treat! And yeah, when you—when, you know, I was given sort of the choice of a genre movie to pick... um… it's alarming how quickly I thought of that movie.

katie

Oh yeah, you were like—

janet

And then I immediately was like "Oh, I better scan the list," thinking like "Oh, I'm sure someone did it already" but not really knowing why I would logically think that. [Katie laughs quietly.] And then realizing that it hadn't been done and feeling like "Oh my god, this is such a great excuse to watch this movie. I haven't seen it in so many years."

katie

Yeah. It's a blast. I'm—I was super happy to watch it. So! We are—I'm gonna describe Ladyhawke a little bit—

janet

Great!

katie

—for those who haven't seen it. And if you haven't seen it, today's episode will contain spoilers. But that shouldn't stop you from listening before you watch. Like we always say, it's not what happens but how it happens that makes a movie worth watching. Still, if you wanna pause this episode and watch it, now's your chance!

janet

Great.

music

 "Main Title" from Ladyhawke Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Andrew Powell. Music plays quietly in the background until the first movie clip.

katie

So. Ladyhawke, as I said, is a 1985 medieval fantasy film— [Janet laughs.] —directed by Richard Donner, written by Edward Khmara, Michael Thomas, and Tom Mankiewicz. It stars a post–War Games, pre–Ferris Bueller

janet

[Gasps.] Thank you for putting that in a chronological context!

crosstalk

Janet: I had no idea. Katie: It's important. Yes. Janet: I have no idea where it falls. That's good. Okay. So pre... pre–War Games? Katie: War Games was '83— Janet: Post–War Games, pre-Ferris. That's what you said? Got it. Katie: Ferris was '88, and this movie's '85. Janet: Okay. Great.

katie

Uh, Matthew Broderick, as Phillipe Gaston. [Janet laughs.] Or Phillipe "The Mouse." A thief who escapes from the Bishop of Aquila's dungeon through the sewer right before he’s due to be executed. He makes his way to an inn where he’s captured by the Bishop’s guards, but he’s rescued by a mysterious blonde man in black armor and his trusty hawk. His name is Etienne Navarre.

janet

Mm-hm.

katie

He is Rutger Hauer. He’s the former captain of the guard and he wants Philippe to help him sneak back into the palace or the fortress to kill the Bishop.

clip

Etienne: “I need you to guide me into the city.” Philippe: “Not for the life of my mother! Even if I knew who she was.” Etienne: “You’re the only one who has ever escaped from there.” Philippe: “It was chance! Pure chance! A miracle! Once in a lifetime! I fell down a hole and followed my nose.”

katie

But, uh, one night Philippe narrowly escapes attack from a farmer, uh, with the help of Black Wolf, who’s accompanied by a mysterious woman in a cloak. The mysterious woman is Michelle Pfeiffer.

janet

Now—do you have the context for pre-and post—-

crosstalk

Janet: —for Rutger and Michelle? Katie: I have—

katie

I have, um… it is post-Grease 2

janet

[Through laughter] Okay.

katie

—and post-Scarface.

janet

Okay. [Janet repeatedly affirms Katie.]

katie

Which was significant to me because she looks so young in this film? And in those movies she’s, like, very mature.

janet

Yes.

katie

Um… Rutger Hauer… Bladerunner was in 1982. So it was po—it was after Bladerunner.

janet

Okay. Okay. Alright.

katie

Which is interesting ‘cause he’s kind of a bad guy in Bladerunner.

janet

Right. But—

katie

And Richard Donner wanted him to play the bad guy.

janet

Oh, really!

katie

He wanted him to play the—the captain of the guard.

janet

Uh-huh.

katie

Who he ultimately kills at the end. Uh, he also—he had cast Kurt Russell as—

crosstalk

Janet: Oh my gosh. Okay. Katie: —Navarre.

katie

And then, like, 10 days before they were supposed to start shooting, Kurt Russell dropped out. [Janet gasps.] And—

janet

What a rollercoaster!

katie

I know. And—and—uh, Rutger Hauer had initially been, like, I really wanna play the Navarre role, and so [though laughter] then Richard Donner calls him up, is like—can you get here? And he drove—he had, like, a semi-truck that he had turned into a mobile home? And he drove it from the Netherlands to Italy. [Laughs.]

crosstalk

Janet: Okay. First of all— Katie: And parked it—

katie

—outside of the studio and Richard Donner was pissed.

janet

Okay.

katie

So—anyway. We—back to the synopsis. We are, uh—so there’s this woman with the wolf. There’s a man with a hawk.

janet

Mm-hm.

katie

What does the connection? [Both laugh.] There’s a fight with the guards again and the hawk gets injured and Philippe takes the hawk to this priest’s castle.

clip

Philippe: “I was told to bring you this bird! It’s been wounded!” Priest: “Oh! Good shot! Bring it in! We’ll dine together!” Philippe: “We can’t eat this bird!” Priest: “What? Oh God, is it Lent again already?” Philippe: “This is no ordinary hawk, Father! It belongs to a man named Navarre!” Priest: “Mother of God. Bring her in. Bring it in! Quickly!”

katie

Ultimately he finds out—he sees this—the young woman at night with a wound in the same place that the hawk is—dun, dun, dun!—Michelle Pfeiffer.

janet

Yeah!

katie

Is a lady that turns into a bird!

janet

That’s right!

katie

[Laughs.] And Rutger Hauer is a man that turns into a wolf, but it’s by day and by night and they swap.

clip

Priest: “By day… you suppose the beautiful bird who brought me. And by night, as you have already guessed, the voice of the wolf that we hear is the cry of Navarre.”

janet

Mm-hm. It’s an—it’s a spell that a very wicked, uh, black arts-focused Bishop—

katie

Yes.

janet

—um—holding true to the, sort-of, idea possibly from a middle—evil periods and others that somebody who has power and is supposed to be religious is actually, y’know, perhaps the most corrupt. So this guy sort of calls—he’s in love with—with Michelle Pfieffer’s character and he is, uh, so jealous of the love that she shares with Rutger Hauer’s character that he—he makes a pact with the Devil, essentially, and this, um, spell is cast and so he—she is—am I allowed to just jump in? I’m so—

crosstalk

Janet: —enthusiastic about this! [Laughs.] Katie: Of course! No, no, no!

janet

She—so she is a—she is a hawk, uh, by day and—and he’s the wolf by night and they never—they never, ever get to interact. Because the transition takes place. So it’s this very cruel joke that—

crosstalk

Katie: It’s like you’re together forever but you can never actually be together. Janet: —the Devil played on them.

katie

Yeah. Um, anyway. So—they wanna break the spell during a solar eclipse, which is a day without night and a night without day, so they ultimately break back into Aquila and… break the spell just by sort of like [though laughter] looking at him? [Laughs.] [Janet laughs.] Like, I was like—they—like—I was like, what do they have to do? They have to confront him? So they both have to look at the bishop while they’re in their human form?

crosstalk

Janet: Uh-huh! That—I don’t even know if that’s clear to me. Katie: And then the spell just breaks? [Through laughter] Yeah.

janet

I think if you wanna see how passive love conquers all is? [Katie laughs.] That’s what it looks like. Two people who love each other looking at someone else. Like, “See?!” [Katie laughs.] “Love conquers all, everybody. That’s what that is.”

katie

Right. And then Rutger Hauer, like, throws a sword. Kills the bishop.

janet

Gotta throw that sword.

katie

Lotta kissing at the end, and then… y’know, like— [Laughs.] I was like, everyone’s just, like, kissing each other on, like— [Janet laughs.] —Matthew Broderick kisses the priest [though laughter] and then they like—

janet

Yeah. That’s Richard Donner for you, I think. There’s a lot of—

crosstalk

Janet: —comedy. Katie: Lotta love.

janet

He packed some comedy into this where there didn’t necessarily—there wouldn’t have been if it were a different person, I think—

crosstalk

Janet: —in running this show. Katie: I was gonna ask you—

katie

—when you first saw it, like, what’s your relationship to it, like, when you saw it as a kid? Like, do you remember the first time you saw it, or?

janet

I don’t remember the first time I saw it, but I was definitely—like many kids—um, I think, maybe like all kids, I… if I liked something, I would just wanna watch it over and over again. And I think, um… I mean, if—it—I—when I look back on movies that I was kind of obsessed with when I was younger than a teenager? Um, I think… like, there are very few of them that are this—that hard-core romantic? Like, this is very, very over-the-top, sort-of, love conquers all, and like, this idea of the star-crossed lovers who aren’t able to be together. I don’t know that I responded so strongly to other things like that? Um… but this movie I just loved. And I really do think I probably just stumbled upon it in the video store, ‘cause it was—I mean, I don’t think it’s rated R or anything and my dad would just sort of turn me loose, and uh, and be like, find something! And um—

crosstalk

Katie: And you were like, Ladyhawke?! Yes! [Laughs.] Janet: And I was like—interesting!

janet

Uh—so—but yeah. I just—I just loved it! But I think—Michelle Pfeiffer is so—she is a peculularly beautiful woman.

katie

Yes.

janet

In a very otherworldly way, and I think, y’know, we can get into the sort of, like, feminism or lack thereof or whatever and the fact that she’s sort of literally the only woman in the movie except for, like, one little thing you see in the background— [Katie laughs.] —of a different scene! Um, but—but she is the kind of actress that I do associate with this kind of ethereal—but also, like, a toughness! So she’s—to me she’s believable even though she’s this tiny little creature, she’s sort of believable as surviving? In some way? Um—

crosstalk

Katie: And she’s very self—yeah. Janet: And very little makeup, y’know.

janet

They don’t do much. So she just seems like she could transform into a bird! Whereas, like, if you told me—y’know, if they were like, “And Cameron Diaz as—” [Katie laughs.] I would be like, oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

katie

Well, apparently—I don’t know who else was in the mix for the role, but apparently, um, she ta—she self-taped and—and she had an unknown friend named Kevin Costner—

crosstalk

Janet: Oh my God, that’s so funny! Katie: —read the lines with her.

katie

It was like, prior to his breakout roles. Um—but uh—she didn’t want to play a princess. Like, she wanted to play… you—and I think people had kind of said oh, you’re too pretty for certain roles.

janet

Sure!

katie

And—which is [though laughter] believable.

janet

Yeah, yeah, yeah!

katie

Um, but, uh, she want—I think she wanted to play something that was, like, not just a damsel? And I don’t think this role is really a—

crosstalk

Katie: —damsel role at all. Janet: Not at all. Yeah.

katie

And I like that she has sort of androgynous hair?

crosstalk

Janet: Yeah! Katie: And— [Laughs.]

janet

I know! It’s great! It’s just like, a weird, bedhead, little-boy messy hair! [Katie laughs.]

katie

Yeah! And I think that’s why I was, like, surprised that it was after Scarface and Grease 2! Because she looks really young.

janet

Yeah. She does.

katie

Um, and I think they kind of make her look a little bit more boyish and I like that she’s, like, always just wearing like these huge, like, sack gowns? [Laughs.]

janet

Yeah! She’s sort of, like—she—if she’s putting on—off and she’s putting on Rutger Hau—we assume—

crosstalk

Katie: Yeah. Like his clothes, yeah. Janet: Like, the clothes he was wearing—

janet

—but now he’s a wolf, so she’s swimming—you’re right—in these, like, giant cloaks and hoods and stuff like that, and.

katie

I do appreciate that the film really takes the time to dive into the logistics of transforming into a— [though laughter] animal?

janet

That’s right! You know what? But that’s the thing that I love about it! And because I did rewatch it, and I—there is a scene in it that still makes me cry, where the—because of the way they’re positioned on this one particular day, because there’s a mountain peak behind them—

crosstalk

Katie: Oh, when they’re in the—it is such a—I was—devastating scene. Janet: —the sun hits—yes! The sun hits this—

janet

—so you—so they—the sun is hitting his fur and it’s sort-of—at the—it’s behind her, she’s sort of backlit, and so it’s coming past her and it’s hitting him and we see the transformation of them, and it’s so not, like… y’know, Teen Wolf or American Werewolf in London or the Thriller video? Where, like, the whole point is the special effects?

katie

Mm-hm.

janet

It’s all very, kind of, symbolic? And it’s—it’s—that whole movie, to me, is both, like, adorably dated? But also weirdly timeless? For some of the same actual reasons. Like, for some of the same things! Like, to me that whole sequence seems so dated in the sense that it’s, like, hey, they did the best they could. Because, this is—y’know—this movie isn’t about special effects. And they just wanted to convey a feeling, but it’s also clear that, y’know, it’s not overly sophisticated. But at the same time, like—seeing it now—to me, it super works! It’s just like this beautiful artistic… series of shots!

katie

All of the transformation, uh, sequences are really interesting ‘cause it is, like, close-ups of, like, a hawk’s eye. And a wing. And someone falling. And—y’know, sunlight hitting and eyeballs changing and it’s like—it’s not that body horror of transformation—

crosstalk

Katie: —where it’s like—[makes agonized monster noise]. Yeah! [Laughs.] Janet: Right! Where it’s like [makes agonized monster noise].

janet

And whiskers come out of your skin. Yeah.

katie

Right. Um… were you a fan of the fantasy genre? Or like the—medieval period at all? Yeah.

janet

Not really. I mean, I—I definitely—I feel like I, like, tried some Piers Anthony? When I was young? Um, but I was… I think I was much more a sci-fi reader? Like, I loved Ray Bradbury a lot, um, as a kid. And uh, and so—yeah. I wasn’t—I wasn’t into particularly like… y’know, if you’d asked me if I wanted to be, like… Madison in Splash versus— [Katie laughs.] —any middle—medieval princess, like Maid Marian or anything like that, I would’ve picked, y’know, being a mermaid. [Laughs.]

crosstalk

Katie: Right. Well. It’s a difficult choice. Janet: Um—or being a—yeah.

janet

And I think I also, in a lot of the medieval stuff, I really—I—I identified—and I—and I would love to—I feel like there’s something pat-y-on-the-back-y about being like, “Well, I identified with the boys in the movies!” But that is what I—identified with. Like, I grew up on—my dad is a—loves the Pirates of Penzance movie that Kevin Kline is one of the stars of? And… I loved him? And the—and what the policemen got to do so much more than the idea of, like, wearing a frilly white dress and singing high? That, y’know—that’s what I wanted to look like. I wanted to have the pirate boots and to have, y’know, the sword and to have the white floofy shirt—which I guess you get as a man or a woman in certain areas. [Katie laughs.] Uh, certain eras. But—so yeah. I—I—I—wasn’t really—I wasn’t, like, miss medieval. [Laughs.]

katie

Right. Well, it is tough because in those movies—and I—I grew up watching all those—‘90s, uh, Robin Hood, Musketeers, Man in the Iron Mask. It’s like—you—I wanted to be Kiefer Sutherland!

janet

Yeah!

katie

[Laughs.] In Three Musketeers! Like, I’m like, I don’t care about being Maid Marian! She’s stuck in some castle! But, um… yeah! I mean, so you do have to find those moments of identification where you can, kind of, like, get in. If they’re not being represented.

janet

Yeah. But I think the idea of—of… transforming into an animal and back? I think that was always something. That like—did that—did you watch stuff like that? Where that appealed to you? Like, I remember when Wolf came out.

katie

Mm-hm.

janet

Um, I was—I was, like, real into that too. Weirdly, with Michelle Pfeiffer as well!

katie

[Through laughter] Yeah!

janet

Um—but, like, anything like that, where someone transforms into an animal and back? Like, there—like, there’s this movie called Cat People that I saw on video? Y’know? And stuff like that I was very attracted to. I’m realizing that now. Like, oh, it was probably more about— _[_"Switchblade Comb" by Mobius VanChocStraw begins playing in background. A jaunty, jazzy tune reminiscent of the opening theme of a movie.] —the animal transformation than it was about anything else.

katie

Yeah. Um, and you also mention the score. Uh, so when—we are gonna take a quick break. When we come back we are gonna dive deep.

janet

Great.

katie

On the score. [Laughs.]

janet

I can’t wait. [Music continues playing, then fades out.]

promo

Music: Upbeat, sci-fi sounding music plays. Dan McCoy: Hey! I’m Dan McCoy. Stuart Wellington: I’m Stuart Wellington. Elliott Kalan: And I’m Elliott Kalan. Together, we are The Flop House. Dan: A podcast where we watch a bad movie and then talk about it! Elliott: Movies like—Space Hobos! Into the Outer Reaches of the Unknown and the Things That we Don’t Know: The Movie, and also—Who’s That Grandma? Stuart: Zazzle-Zippers! Breakdown 2 and Backhanded Compliment. Dan: Elvis is a Policeman! Elliott: Baby Crocodile and the Happy Twins! Dan: Leftover Potatoes? Stuart: Station Wagon 3. Elliott: Herbie Goes to Hell. Dan: New episodes available every other Saturday! Elliott: Available at MaximumFun.org or wherever you get your podcasts. Dan, Elliott, and Stuart: [In unison] Byeee!

music

"Switchblade Comb" by Mobius VanChocStraw plays, then fades out as Katie speaks.

katie

Welcome back to Switchblade Sisters! We are with Janet Varney and we are talking about [dramatic sing-song voice] Ladyhawke. [Regular voice] I don’t know why I said it like that.

janet

It’s good. I like a musical title.

katie

Yeah. [Laughs.]

crosstalk

Janet: Whether it deserves it or not. Katie: It seems appropriate.

janet

Yeah.

katie

Um, so we’re gonna talk about the score.

janet

[Laughs.] Great.

katie

Which is… bonkers?

janet

Yeah.

katie

I mean, what—

janet

I’ve gone through—I feel like I’ve cycled through—not eight—did not remember it at all. Like, it made no impression on me as a child? So… when I—and then I remember, like—like, catching up on this movie. Like, feeling like—maybe it was on. I don’t know. But maybe 10 years ago?

katie

Mm-hm.

janet

Seeing some of it? And being— [Excerpt from movie score begins playing in the background; dramatic adventure orchestral music heavy on the synth.] —so horrified by the music? [Katie laughs.] That I was like—what are they do—they ruined this movie! How did I not remember this?! To now—fast-forward to today—I watch it and I’m like, this is great!

katie

Yeah.

music

Dramatic adventure music somewhat reminiscent of the orchestral Classic Hollywood swashbuckling adventure music found in films like The Adventures of Robin Hood, combined with the heavy-handedness of 1980s fantasy adventure scores, and overlaid with a disconcerting quantity of synth. [Music continues playing in background as Katie begins talking.]

katie

So. The score was written by a guy named Andrew Powell, who only did one other movie score. [Laughs.]

janet

Okay.

katie

Called Rocket Gibraltar.

janet

Alright. Alright. Alright.

katie

Um, but he’s, like, a pretty… he works a lot. He’s like, an—a composer-arranger, and he was working with this group called The Alan Parsons Project[Laughs.]

janet

Yes! Yes!

katie

And apparently Richard Donner, when he was location scouting, was listening to the—The Alan Parsons Project? And then he, like, could not get that out of his mind?

janet

Oh no.

crosstalk

Janet: It’s so personal! Katie: So of course this—

janet

So this is like a personal inside reason— [Katie laughs.] —for this absurd score.

katie

[Laughs.] Yeah. And so—and then—of course today I was listening—uh—to get in the zone, I was listening to, um, The Alan Parsons Project, their, like, 1982 [though laughter] album?

crosstalk

Janet: Oh my god. Katie: And it is like—

katie

It is exactly— [Janet laughs.] —this vibe. Um, but the other fun fact about Andrew Powell is that he com—um, produced Kate Bush’s first two albums.

janet

Interesting!

katie

So—

janet

I love that!

katie

Yeah. He produced The Kick Inside, which has “Wuthering Heights” on it. Which—everyone knows “Wuthering Heights” because it’s—

crosstalk

[Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” begins playing in background—light piano with mystical chimes.] Janet: Oh, come on, guys. Katie: —Kate Bush in the red outfit—

katie

—doing a crazy dance in a field.

janet

Yeah. [Singing] Dee dee dee, dee dee dee—dee dee—dee dee deeee. Yeah.

music

[“Wuthering Heights” increases in volume] Out on the wily windy moors We’d roll and fall in green [Music fades down and continues softly under dialogue]

katie

Also, that video—I mean, like, that vibe of that video is totally this movie, which is like—ancient, but modern.

janet

Yeah.

katie

And like—

janet

Sexy, misty— [Katie laughs.] What—what’s happening? [Music fades out]

katie

We’re on the moors. It’s like, witchy.

crosstalk

Katie: There’s magic. [Laughs.] Janet: Your—my heart is broken—

janet

And I must sing about it.

katie

[Through laughter] Yes.

janet

Yeah. You’re right.

katie

And like—or you’re like—this is weird, but I love it?

janet

Yeah. [Katie laughs.] Yeah! It came right back around!

katie

Um. But it’s interesting, because I—I feel like—y’know, we—we say, oh, y’know, this is a Richard Donner film and like… y’know, Vittorio Storaro shot it, but—the—I really feel like the—as I was researching the film, the—the driving force behind this movie was Lauren Shuler—

janet

Okay!

katie

—Donner. Who…

janet

Interesting.

katie

Is married to Richard Donner—

janet

Okay.

katie

Um, and they met and fell in love on this movie!

janet

Really!

katie

Yes! And they’re—

janet

Wait, what does she do?

katie

She’s the producer!

janet

She’s—okay. She’s the producer. Yeah.

katie

So she—got—she produced Mr. Mom, one of—

crosstalk

Katie: —my favorite movies from childhood. [Katie laughs.] Janet: Great movie. Great movie.

katie

Another movie I watch on VHS all the time—why? I don’t know. I was, like, eight years old. [Laughs.] [Janet laughs.] What was I doing? Just—it was, like, the only movie we had.

janet

Yeah. [Katie laughs.] So—I mean, listen! Things that have, like, a comedy and a heart to them, it’s hard not to, just, like, always wanna—

crosstalk

Janet: —watch it every day. Katie: And that’s kind of—

katie

Um… Richard Donner and that’s obviously her movies, too, but… she got the option for the script. Um, from Edward Khmara, who—who was one of the screenwriters, and then she spent years trying to, like, get it into production. She convinced Richard Donner to direct it, and… then they fell in love! And—

janet

That’s a wonderful story!

katie

Yeah, they got married in 1985 and they’re still married!

janet

Unfortunately, she was—could only produce the movie by night— [Katie laughs.] —and he could only direct the movie by day. It’s so— [Laughs.] She would see—it would be, like, they would have the slate and it would be like, just as it was clicking to end the last scene as the sun was going down— [Katie laughs.] —he would turn into, uh, Lethal Weapon. I don’t know.

katie

[Through laughter] Yeah, exactly. [Janet laughs.] Superman. Um… in your career—I mean, you’ve done a lot of stuff where you—you’ve started things and you’ve done creative stuff on your own, like, sort of like, not waiting for someone to just hand you something. You—doing creative projects with your friends; I mean—it—I—I was thinking about that when I was thinking about Lauren Schuler Donner and her producing things in her career, and, I mean… how—you know—what—what’s been your ethos in sort of, like, starting your career and—and—y’know, getting your projects going?

janet

Well, I think, um… one of the things that actually—it’s funny. If—if we’re—if we’re going to draw any comparisons between my meager career— [Katie laughs.] —and this movie, um, I do think the idea of… like, it’s—even when I started my podcast? I—at the time, I—I—that was, like, seven years ago or so. And—and—there was—there were great podcasts already. I mean, I laugh because I remember thinking then, oh, but everybody already has a podcast! [Katie laughs.] And that just meant five people did instead of, like, literally everyone? Um… not literally. Uh, but uh—but I think I… I very much at that time… um… wanted to… be able to… be really sincere? And it’s funny that I finally ended up on Maximum Fun, because that’s something that Jesse has always, like, been very forward about. And I always—I always tell him how much I loved—like… 12 years ago I—maybe more. He had these little buttons that said “The New Sincerity” that had two kittens hugging? 

katie

Aww!

janet

And—the idea being, like, no, you like it ‘cause you like it! You don’t like it ‘cause you’re snarky and you’re being ironic about it! Yes, there’s a place for that, but also, like—how about you just gushy gushy mushy love something, and you’re also a comedian who makes fun of stuff? Like, can’t those things coexist? And I think I really—that was at a phase in my life where maybe I felt like I was—like—what I was exposed to or what I was around a lot was maybe a little too snarky for what I was feeling? So the idea of being able to mix comedy and heart? I think, um, that comes from, like, loving movies like this. Where, y’know, there are very few movies that I love that don’t have a real sense of humor to them. That don’t take themselves so seriously. Um, because it gives you permission to… it almost gives you permission—and that’s why I think things like Guardians of the Galaxy succeed so well now, is like—you have the permission to—to recognize when something is preposterous? But because the whole movie has a spirit of, like, self-awareness or just… joyful silliness? You can sort of accept and move past all of these things that maybe don’t make sense or they’re just, y’know, so absurd. Um, but when you—when a movie takes itself super seriously—when anything takes itself so seriously? That’s when it’s, like, begging you to find the—the faults. In a sense. Y’know? It better be real good, because you’re gonna have a lot of down time to sort of go, hmm, I dunno. You’re being very, like… y’know, strum und drang about this moment in this movie, but like—does this even make sense?

janet

Because if he’s in—if he went back in time, how is he not—like, y’know, you sort of start deconstructing it. So I think if you can—if you can leave room for humor but also leave room for vulnerability? Then that’s—that’s, uh, that’s a really great piece of work and I think that’s what I’m drawn to and that’s what I’m drawn to creating? Um, and—and so that’s something that, y’know, can be hard because… if you’re working in—and this goes in—sort of any business where you feel like maybe you’re not represented the same way another group is. Um… and you don’t see as many people pushing the boundaries or—or what have you. And that’s definitely happening, um, less for women nowadays. Like, there’s a lot more equality on the way and happening and present. But um, to be able to just go… okay, not only do I want to start this new thing but I wanna start this new thing that feels like a very vulnerable thing to do because it’s from the heart and I’m not protecting myself and I’m not, y’know, I’m just kind of putting it all out there. Um, I think that’s a different kind of courage? And I just admire people so much who do that. Like, the Maria Bamfords of the world, for example.

katie

Yeah! And it’s interesting—like… I was looking at your Twitter and it’s like, it’s very enthusiastic! And celebratory! [Janet laughs.] And… um… that can be—y’know—and—and I think that… even in like fandom worlds now, it’s like, it’s not about loving things. It’s about not liking certain things? Which is so frustrating!

janet

Yeah.

katie

Um… especially as a creator or even as a fan or a critic or anybody who… um… y’know, is in this world. It’s like—it’s just like constant negativity.

janet

Yeah. That’s a hard thing. I mean, that’s a conversation obviously that’s ongoing about things like social media and—um, that’s obviously like a very, very fair criticism and it’s kind of the reason why I haven’t really engaged negatively. Um, even though… that’s something that I—that I struggle with! I mean, I struggle with not being more political on social media! But I… I can’t—I can’t do it! I mean, I—I physically can’t take it. I can’t take… that much… righteous indignation? Even though I certainly feel it and I certainly act upon it in other ways? Um…I—I’m a—I mean, I have friends who are extremely, uh… loud! On social media. And in trying to, y’know, amass, uh, a—a bunch of people to—to make good things happen and all of that. And I respect and appreciate that so much, and I’m so glad that there are people doing it. Um. But that’s a—that’s something that’s—that’s I think, um, an ongoing question that we’re asking ourselves in this particular, uh, place in time, because if you… you can either feel the responsibility of, like, no, I need to be very loud because I need people to hopefully understand that I stand for something, or, y’know, maybe I’ll change some minds. Versus, like, is there some way for me to do that that doesn’t encourage trolls? Or that—or that—that doesn’t feel like I’m preaching to the choir. Or… do you know what I mean? Um, so it’s an ongoing—it’s kind of an ongoing thing! Y’know. Where—where do you put what? Where—what’s your output? Where is your art? What kinds of art are you putting out and where, and what are the desired effects, and what can you handle as an artist before you would just, like, crumple up into like a dry leaf and blow away and not be able [stifling laughter] to do anything anymore! [Laughs.] Y’know?

katie

Right! And as someone who’s, like, constantly creating new stuff, whether you’re, like, doing a podcast or a show or like acting on a show or like… whatever—I mean, how do you, like, keep those—I imagine that in order to keep going, like, in the landscape that we’re in with social media, with Twitter, like—is there some sort of… personal resource that you have to just like fill your own cup and like make sure you, like, are—are not getting too drained by, like, the quote-unquote “discourse?”

janet

Yeah, I—I’m—I’m so rarely on social media. I think that’s really what it has—has been for me. Um, if—if I were… I think it’s a—I think it’s habit-forming and it can be habit-forming in a great way? If it’s moving your… agenda forward? In a—in a—and it feels good and you’re getting more work because you have more followers? All of that kind of stuff? Like, I don’t wanna be cynical about that. It’s easy to be cynical about it. But… I’ve seen it help friends of mine who… maybe didn’t get that credibility from somewhere else! And so you could argue that they built it themselves via social media! And I totally respect that. And I—I envy that! But every time I think to myself, like, oh I should—I should engage more so that I get more and more and more followers, um, something inside me, like, cries. [Laughs.] Because I just can’t live… um… I can’t live online that way. I just have—I can’t. And I don’t think it’s this about my age, I think… I’ve always been somebody who… um… needs to be very physically kind of present to things. And, um—

katie

Grounded.

janet

And not be overwhelmed and not get a headache from staring at my computer and stuff. So I have a vulnerability to electronics in that way, where I’m like, oh, I can only do this for a short period of time and then like I can’t.

katie

Was that always the case or did you—was there a moment where you, like, I have to draw the line.

janet

I never felt like I drew a line.

katie

Oh, okay.

janet

Yeah. Um, that’s what I—people are like, how do you manage to not get sucked in to Instagram? And I’m like—I don’t know! [Katie laughs.] I—I have so many people that I quote-unquote “follow” who I adore! On Instagram. I have no idea what their children look like! I truly don’t know what they’re up to! Unless I talk to them! Um, I never scroll through feed! Never!

crosstalk

Katie: Yeah. It’s inter— Janet: I might see the first—

janet

I go on to post, and then I’m out. Or I go on to respond because I feel like if I post then I want the responsibility of that engagement, of being like, hey, thank you for taking the time to say you liked this picture! You’re cool! Or give it a little heart or whatever. I don’t wanna just, like, be that un—I mean, I’m not an unapproachable person at all. I’m like, grossly approachable— [Katie laughs.] —but, um…

crosstalk

Katie: Put that in your, uh, in your bio. Janet: But it’s like—but yeah. Katie and Janet: Grossly approachable! [Laughs.]

janet

But yeah. I—but I—but I don’t—I just don’t start! I just don’t start. And it’s not like I have to stop myself. There is no part of me that’s like, oohhhh, I really wanna scroll through this feed! It’s just not even something that comes up for me.

katie

There are some people that just have that, like, they—they don’t—they can—in and out. And not have that, like, addictive relationship to social media. Which—is very healthy.

janet

I guess. I mean, I think there are things I’m missing out on, too, but I—I don’t—I think I’m getting to the place in my life where you sort of acknowledge who you are and go from there? And I think that would be… I would have to really mean it if I wanted to change myself in that way? And it—then it is, like, well what do I have time for? Becoming a totally different person in that regard? Or just… making some other stuff or, y’know. I dunno.

music

"Switchblade Comb" by Mobius VanChocStraw. A jaunty, jazzy tune reminiscent of the opening theme of a movie.

katie

It’s super interesting. We could go down the rabbit hole— [Janet laughs.] —of the—

crosstalk

Katie: —of the social media conversation. We will take a very quick break— Janet: It’s a hot topic. It’s a hot topic.

katie

—and come right back with more Janet Varney and Ladyhawke! _[Music fades out_.]

promo

Music: Gentle, upbeat piano music. J. Keith van Straaten: Hey everybody, this is J. Keith van Straaten, host of Go Fact Yourself, a live game show here on the Maximum Fun network. On Go Fact Yourself, we take the smartest people we know, and make them look dumb. J. Keith: Paul, by the way, how much do you know about chicken husbandry? Paul F. Tompkins: You gotta give ‘em that grain. J. Keith: Alright! [Audience laughs.] Paul: You gotta give ‘em that grain! J. Keith: And then smart again. J. Keith: What future hall of fame pitcher for the Cleveland Indians became the first active player to enlist— Speaker 1: Rob Fuller. J. Keith: —wh—oh. Okay! [Audience laughs again.] J. Keith: We’ve got me, co-host Helen Hong, plus celebrity guests and actual surprise experts. J. Keith: Alright, we have an expert on hand for sure. Speaker 2: Is it Allan Havey? J. Keith: Helen, who do we have tonight? Helen Hong: Allan Havey! J. Keith: Allan Havey! [Crowd cheers.] J. Keith: In the coming weeks, you can hear guests like Maria Bamford, Tom Bergeron, Paul F. Tompkins, Janet Varney, and Grant Imahara. Check us out on the first and third Friday of every month, here on the Maximum Fun network. [Music continues for a moment, then ends.]

music

"Switchblade Comb" by Mobius VanChocStraw plays for several moments, then fades out.

katie

We’re back! We’re talking Ladyhawke. I’m Katie Walsh. We’re here with Janet Varney. So I did promise Janet we would talk about some of the other—could-have-been casts.

janet

Yeah! The other—the other Eric Stoltzes in the _Back to the Future_s.

katie

Yes.

janet

Great!

katie

Um… huge crazy one, uh, Richard Donner really wanted Mick Jagger to play the bishop.

janet

Really?!

katie

Yes! Which I cannot imagine. I—I can imagine then—that the bishop would’ve been a lot more, like, sexy and slimy? But like—can you imagine Mick Jagger with that hat on?

janet

I mean, no! [Both laugh.] I’m like, I—because—y’know, you see David Bowie in Labyrinth and you’re like, how has that—like, nothing has ever made more sense than that, somehow. Even if you didn’t see it coming. Mick Jagger as a bishop? I mean, it’s… listen. It’s a major wink. It’s like a—y’know, that’s really—when you’re stunt casting like that? That feels so self-aware? Because you gotta know, if you’re Richard Donner, you have to know that that is going to pull people out of the movie so fast. Like, it’s Mick Jagger! You’re—no. You know you’re casting Mick Jagger. Y’know?

katie

Right, and he’s gonna be like—y’know, doing his, like—

crosstalk

Katie: —swivel-y hip dance? Yeah. Janet: His little sassy—yeah.

janet

I—it’s very, very hard to imagine.

katie

Um, and then for… the Philippe the Mouse role, which was so beautifully captured by Matthew Broderick—

janet

Did a good job.

katie

Both Sean Penn—

crosstalk

Janet: Oh no. No. No, no, no, no, no, no. Katie: Post-Fast Times

katie

And Dustin Hoffman.

janet

[Shrieking] What?! [Katie laughs.] I just exploded the microphone. Are you kidding me?!

katie

Were considered. But like, Dustin Hoffman was older than Rutger Hauer, like—

crosstalk

Janet: Yeah! Katie: —when they were— [Laughs.]

katie

Shoot the movie.

janet

I mean, it doesn’t say that he has to be any particular age now that I’m thinking about it, like it doesn’t say that—

katie

Right. But it really does have that kind of, like, y’know, when he gets like scooped up by Navarre—like, he needs to be younger, like, more—like, there’s the power dynamic at play.

janet

Yes. Yes.

katie

Um… but yeah. It’s—

janet

That is nuts. I—if he—I could—we coulda sat here for three hours and you—and you should— [Katie laughs.] —and you would say, like, fire off some guesses.

crosstalk

Katie: And you wouldn’t have—and I’m— Janet: And I would never have gotten to those two. Never.

katie

Also, just imagining, like, Spicoli?

crosstalk

Katie: As like— [Laughs.] Janet: I know!

katie

As like—as like, [surfer dude voice] hey, like, I just escaped from the bishop!

janet

[Surfer dude voice] Yeah! Just call me the Mouse! [Katie laughs.] What’s uppp! [Regular voice.] It’s so funny. Oh my god.

crosstalk

Katie: Like, his blonde feathered hair. Janet: I could not.

janet

I mean, what did—what—what—I would’ve thought you would’ve said is like, Ricky Shroder! Or like, y’know what I mean? I would’ve thought that somebody who was somewhat comparable—

katie

Right.

crosstalk

Katie: But—but really— Janet: Wow. That’s nuts.

katie

When you think about it, it’s like, it only ever could’ve been Matthew Broderick.

janet

I agree! I mean, I feel that way about all three of them!

katie

I know. I know. When you—

janet

Kurt Russell! I mean, listen. I love Kurt Russell. But—

katie

Okay. So try to imagine Kurt Russell and Sean Penn. [Laughs.]

janet

No. No. No, no, no.

katie

It—they—you wouldn’t have gotten the, like, European medieval vibes. Like, Rutger Hauer and, y’know—RIP, Rutger Hauer.

janet

I knowww!

katie

I’m so sad. Um… he has the—he seems of another time.

janet

Yeah. You can put him anywhere.

katie

In the same way that, um, Michelle Pfeiffer… seems like an otherworldly, like, magical creature? Rutger Hauer seems like he’s an ancient Viking. [Laughs.]

janet

Yeah. Absolutely. 100%. He really can pull that off.

katie

Which—

janet

You can—I mean—Matthew Broderick—again—I wouldn’t necessarily have thought that that would work. But—

crosstalk

Katie: Yeah, ‘cause he seems very modern. Yeah. Janet: He’s darling. He’s darling.

katie

Some other fun facts, uh… let’s see. I—y’know, um, Rutger Hauer was like a very accomplished swordfighter because he was like, in a show—

janet

You said he was, like, obsessed with—

katie

Um—

janet

He was in another medieval thing with the—Jennifer Jason Leigh that I was very shocking to me when I saw it too young and I was like, what is happening? Oh no!

katie

That movie came out the same year.

crosstalk

Katie: So 1980— Janet: That doesn’t surprise me.

katie

1985 was a—a big year for a lot—a lot of these people. [Laughs.]

janet

Yeah!

katie

Um, Richard Donner had a little movie called The Goonies.

janet

Mm-hm.

crosstalk

Janet: Heard of it! Heard of it! Katie: Also released in 1985?

katie

And, um, Rutger Hauer was in a Paul Verhoeven medieval movie called—

janet

Oh, that’s why! ‘Cause it’s Verhoeven!

katie

Yeah. It’s Flesh and Blood.

janet

With Jennifer Jason Leigh. Yeah.

katie

With Jennifer Jason Leigh.

janet

Yeah. That’s a confus—that’s a very confusing movie for a young person. [Katie laughs.] It was definitely very, like… because he—again, he does play this kind of bad person who… is doing very bad things! But because—he—he’s a classic antihero! Right? He—he sort of takes advantage of Jennifer Jason Leigh but then she manages to manipulate him so that she’s taken less advantage of, and then they have this sort of love affair, but like… from whence it came! You’re like, oh no! This is bad!

katie

Creepy!

janet

Yeah.

katie

Um… and… yeah! It’s a—it’s an interesting—Rutger Hauer is such an interesting actor. I—we sort of touched on it a little bit earlier, but like—he—y’know, has a—the ability to play sort of sinister characters and… this is a straight-up romantic leading role—even though he is a wolf-man. But— [though laughter] um. He, uh, he is—I think he—I saw a quote from him when I was looking this up that he was sort of, like, he didn’t really want to be a huge star. So I wonder if he kind of denied some of those, like, hero roles? So he could, like, be more of a character actor type?

janet

I do—and I do think of him as a character actor!

crosstalk

Janet: Don’t you? Yeah! Katie: Yeah. Totally.

janet

It’s like, what would Bladerunner have been without him? I mean, what would’ve Bladerunner been without basically any of the—the wonderful actors in it. But trying to imagine that movie without him? And like, someone else being in that seminal scene where he’s, y’know, the—the tears of rain! Tears of rain, everybody! Like, that is—that—to—to me that scene is the movie in some ways. Y’know.

katie

Yeah! I mean, the—it—and it—like—we said about this movie, Bladerunner is just cast… you can’t imagine anyone else.

janet

Yeah.

katie

In it. [Laughs.]

janet

Yeah. I love—I mean, those—those—that’s the reason that those movies stand the test of time! Clearly, no one’s heard of Ladyhawke so it hasn’t quite— [Katie laughs.] [Stifling laughter] —made it into the Bladerunner category.

katie

The VideoTech staff has heard of Lady[Janet laughs.] [Through laughter] They were—when I rented Ladyhawke from VideoTech, they were like, yeah, obviously. Like, duh!

janet

It is—three names—it’s nice—it’s one thing when someone’s like, you’ve never seen blah, blah, blah? And you’re like, who’s in it? And then they say three semi-obscure people? You’re like, okay, well that’s—I don’t necessarily—I shouldn’t have necessarily—but when you hear those three names together, you’re like, huh! Are—I—no, I haven’t seen it or heard of it!

katie

It’s a great combo. [Laughs.]

janet

Yeah! Unexpected combo.

katie

So—I—have you ever wanted—I mean, we’re talking about this now, but like, y’know—do a medieval period piece? They don’t make the movies like this anymore!

janet

I would! I mean, I definitely would. I—I—I did—I—I’ve worn clothes—I’ve worn sort of Shakespearean classic clothes in one—once in my life, which was when I did, uh, The Merry Wives of Windsor. When I was in college. And they are heavy as hell. There was like, a very heavy, multilayered velvet, like, with the sort of bustier and everything—the corset and all of that. Um, I do not envy—I mean, Dangerous Liaisons is a great movie to show off just how often women fainted. [Katie laughs.] Like, they do not shy away from that. Women are constantly having to get some air or pass out on a couch. And that is how it was. Like—

crosstalk

Janet: You could not breathe. Katie: It’s too damn hot! [Laughs.]

janet

You could—you were crushing your lungs and everything was heavy and hot and you couldn’t breathe. And I’m sure everyone stunk.

katie

I know. I know.

janet

Which is fine! But you never think about that when you’re watching things like that.

katie

Well, at least Michelle had some garments that breathed a little bit. [Laughs.]

janet

Yeah! She got to—she really—it was—you’re right. It was this sort of little boyish androgyny to it.

crosstalk

Janet: Swimming in her cloaks. Me, too. Katie: I know. I lo—I love all her costumes. I—

katie

I think it was an Italian costume director. I think she makes a little cameo in the film, too.

janet

Oh, really?

katie

Yeah. So.

janet

We should—I wonder if she was the bird when they have the—‘cause there’s a woman dancing with the bishop at the beginning.

crosstalk

Janet: That’s the only— Katie: I think that’s—

katie

I think that’s her.

crosstalk

Katie: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. Janet: Yeah. It would make sense.

janet

She was wearing a beautiful robe that had wings on it—

katie

Katie: Yeah. That’s her. Janet: So it looked like—

janet

Yeah. That’s cool.

katie

Well, Janet Varney, thank you so much—

crosstalk

Janet: Katie! Thank you! Katie: —for talking about Ladyhawke!

janet

Thank you for giving me a reason to rewatch it and talk about it! It was just so much fun!

katie

Guys, you gotta see Ladyhawke. Go listen to the score. Listen to some Alan Parsons Project[Janet laughs.] —some Kate Bush. And just get into your medieval fantasy—

janet

That’s right. Don’t be afraid because love conquers all. [Laughs.]

katie

Yeah. And uh, listen to Janet’s podcast, Voyage to the Stars, JV Club

janet

Awesome.

katie

Anything else?

janet

No, I mean, just come up to Sketchfest! There’s a ton of Max Fun shows that are gonna be up there, per ushe. We got Judge John Hodgman, and, uh, Jordan, Jesse, Go! And a bunch that I’m forgetting ‘cause we have, like, 300 shows [though laughter] so— [Katie laughs.] But we love—

katie

Remember all of them!

crosstalk

Katie: Right now! List them! And that’s—so soon! Are you guys—like— Janet: Yeah. Remember all of them. Um, but lots of great opportunities to come and see comedy in San Francisco. Yeah! January 9th-26th.

katie

—in the thick of planning right now?

janet

Very much in the thick. Lots of editing of the program of the, like, 56-page program. [Laughs.]

katie

Are you gonna do your podcast there?

janet

I’m not! I—I usually take—I do usually do like a year then I take a year off, do it, do it, take a year off.

katie

I see.

janet

So this was a year where I felt like there was so much going on that I should probably do—that I should skip.

katie

Is this the 20th anniversary?

crosstalk

Janet: Almost. 19th. Yeah. I know. I know. Music: "Switchblade Comb" by Mobius VanChocStraw begins playing in background. Katie: Almost. Oh, okay. Oh my gosh.

katie

Well—

janet

The one before 20. [Katie laughs.] That’s how we think of it. [Laughs.]

katie

Alright. Thank you so much, Janet!

crosstalk

Janet: Thanks, Katie! Katie: This was such a treat.

janet

Oh, thank you so much!

katie

Thank you.

janet

Bye, guys!

katie

Bye! Thank you for listening to Switchblade Sisters. With me—Katie Walsh! If you like what you’re hearing, please leave us a five-star review on Apple Podcasts. If you wanna let us know what you think of the show, you can tweet us @switchbladepod or email us at switchbladesister@maximumfun.org. Please check out our Facebook group—facebook.com/groups/switchbladesisters. Our producer is Kasey O’Brien; our senior producer is Laura Swisher. This is a production of MaximumFun.org. [Music ends.]

clip

Philippe: “I was told to bring you this bird!”

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About the show

Switchblade Sisters is a podcast providing deep cuts on genre flicks from a female perspective. Every week, film critic April Wolfe sits down with a phenomenal female film-maker to slice-and-dice a classic genre movie – horror, exploitation, sci-fi and many others! Along the way, they cover craft, the state of the industry, how films get made, and more. Mothers, lock up your sons, the Switchblade Sisters are coming!

Follow @SwitchbladePod on Twitter and join the Switchblade Sisters Facebook group. Email them at switchbladesisters@maximumfun.org.

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