An Interview with C. Courtney Joyner – Part Two
My conversation with novelist and screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner continues as we discuss his directorial debut with Full Moon Entertainment, Tim Thomerson and Courtney shares some Charles Bronson stories…
CTB: You stepped into the director’s chair for the first time for 1992’s Trancers III. What was it like being a first time director? Is it true that Charles Band was originally going to direct the movie?
CCJ: Directing my first movie was great. It was something I’d always wanted to do, and Full Moon was the kind of company where you’d get opportunities, and I told Charlie that was what I was aiming for, and I’d written PUPPETMASTER 3 and DR. MORDRID, and they had been well received, so when he asked me to work on TRANCERS, my directing was part of it. Also, Tim Thomerson really pulled for me; we’re great pals, for many years, and he made sure that he showed total support of me, and since he was the star, that meant a hell of a lot. Also, Albert Band was my producer, and he saw me as his protégé, so it was just the most supportive group you can imagine. In fact, when Charlie and his dad were shooting MORDRID, they made sure I was on the set all the time, to get to know the crew, since I would be working with them, and they even had me direct some moments, to get me used to the process. It was the most gracious introduction to directing you can imagine, and all on a low budget. And, I talked Andy Robinson into being my bad guy – and that’s pretty high cotton!
I don’t know if Charlie was going to direct the film originally; it makes sense, since he did the others – and TRANCERS was considered kind of the “big series,” with the name actors, etc. in each installment. When I finished the film, and Charlie shot the VIDEOZONE, he made a special point of giving me recognition for directing, and the way the movie turned out, which was also very kind, and a total surprise to me until I saw the clip of him talking. All of these things, frankly, add up to the “best of” working for a company like Full Moon; we didn’t have a lot of money, but you got to make movies.
CTB: Is Tim Thomerson as awesome in real life as he appears to be on screen?
CCJ: About a zillion years ago, I wrote a movie that Robert Ginty starred in and directed, called VIETNAM, TEXAS and he told me Tim was going to be in it, I was truly excited. I thought he was great – and then we got together on the film, and suddenly we were deep into conversation about Steve Cochran flicks and Scott Brady and noir, and westerns, and our mutual admiration for Robert Ryan. I’d found an instant buddy. One night, we were shooting late, and Tim said, “Hey, this take’s for you!” And he did his dialog in the most dead-perfect Lee Marvin impression I’ve ever seen. Awesome. I’m really proud to call him my friend for all these years.
CTB: Do you prefer writing movies over directing them?
CCJ: I’m more comfortable writing, because I’ve done it a bit, but I would love to direct another film one day. I have a tough, robbery script set in the U.K. that I would die to have a chance to make – so, I live in hope! But I think the writing will always come first with me.
CTB: In my research for this interview I saw that you’ve done a little acting over the years, including a small part in Murphy’s Law. Any interesting stories from the set? Did you get to interact with the legendary Charles Bronson?
CCJ: I did extra work on that movie with my old friend, Jeff Burr; we were house-mates, and Jeff’s directing career was about to take off, but we were still in need of pizza money, so off we went to watch J. Lee Thompson direct Charles Bronson! On MURPHY’S, they were shooting the strip club scene in an old Chinese restaurant, and they chose the crowd for the club, and I wasn’t picked. And neither was Charles Bronson! He’d been brought to set hours before he was needed, and he was not happy about it. So, the first time Jeff and I ever saw Bronson in person, he was pissed off! So, everyone goes inside for the shooting, and I’m hanging around, grab some water from the extras table, and there’s Bronson at craft services. And no one is there. Deserted. So I had to say something – when was I ever going to have another chance? So I went up to him, and stammered how much I loved RIDER ON THE RAIN. And he just stared at me, without a word. So I backed off, but at least I got it said. Maybe forty minutes later, I’m getting some tea, and turn around, and there’s Bronson! And he tells me a little bit about shooting the film in France. Wow. Later, when they were filming with him, and other extras including me, I laughed during a take! Bronson delivered his line so Bronson-like – it just killed me! So they went for another one, with the AD yelling for us to be quiet, but Bronson kept repeating the line in that style, before the cameras were rolling – he knew it was funny.
I have to say, I encountered Charles Bronson a few times over the years – briefly, a few words here and there – but he was nice to me, or at least acknowledged me; and once shook my hand, which I thought would break into a million pieces.
CTB: Finally, what does 2018 have in store for C. Courtney Joyner?
CCJ: A double-edition of SHOTGUN called BUSHWACKED: THE BLOODY SAGA OF JOHN ‘SHOTGUN’ BISHOP is coming out from Pinnacle Books on January 15th. These are the first two books put together in one volume. That will be followed by another SHOTGUN novel this year, THESE VIOLENT TIMES. And, since we’re talking Charlie Bronson – my character’s last name is actually a reference to Bronson in John Lewis Carlino’s THE MECHANIC, and not Bill Holden in Peckinpah’s masterpiece – although I’m thrilled with either association!
Right now, I’m also working on a short story for a BEST OF THE WEST collection from Five Star, and I hope I’ll be steeped in a NEMO sequel for Tor, and, we hope and pray, writing the pilot for the cable series, which seems like it’s truly taking shape. Also, I have my eye on a HOUSE OF DRACULA half-sheet that’s been on eBay for a while, so maybe 2018 will finally see it on my wall!
CTB: Best of luck to you Courtney on Nemo Rising and all of your 2018 plans. And for those of you who missed the first part of my interview with C. Courtney Joyner, click here!