With Cannibal! The Musical,
writer-director (-singer!) Trey Parker makes bad taste utterly
Trey Parker may not be
as recognizable as the characters on South Park, the hugely
popular cartoon he created with his college pal Matt Stone,
but that may be about to change: This week, Cannibal! The
Musical, a movie Parker wrote, directed and starred in (on
top of penning the lyrics and cocomposing the score) begins
a two-week run at Cinema Village. Parker made Cannibal! while
he was an undergraduate at the University of Colorado; it's
the true story of Alferd Packer, a 19th-century mountain man
with the dubious distinctions of being the only convicted
cannibal in U.S. history. Next week, David Zucker's BASEketball,
starring Parker and Stone, opens nationwide, and September
brings Orgazmo, another feature Parker wrote and directed,
in which he plays a Mormon missionary-turned-porn star. Parker
recently took a break from his hectic South Park duties to
talk with TONY about the movie that started it all.
Time Out New York: What
led you to make Cannibal!?
Trey Parker: When I was
growing up in Colorado, all the folktales I heard were either
things that happened in South Park - 'cause that's where all
the weird shit happened - or tales of Alferd Packer. I grew
up near the places where all this happened, and we'd be driving
around with my folks and they'd say "Here's where Alferd
Packer did this ...," so he became this folklore hero
to me. I went to CU Boulder, which was totally infatuated
with Alferd Packer as well. The restaurant in the student
center is called the Alferd Packer Grill, they have Alferd
Packer Day every year. While I was there, they dug up the
remains of the bodies [of Packer's alleged meals] and did
tests on them to try and find out what really happened. I
made the film for the school, thinking it would be something
they could show on Alferd Packer Day every year.
TONY: Did you have much
of a musical background?
TP: Music has always been
my major thing. I started playing the piano when I was about
12, and by the time I was 17, I was giving lessons and playing
in bands. In college, I was studying classical piano, composition,
stuff like that, thinking I'd move into scoring films. I took
film classes just because I figured I'd learn that side of
it as well ... and then we started making cartoons.
TONY: Cannibal! looks
amazing for such a cheap movie, especially the gore effects
in the opening scene. Did it really just cost $100,000?
TP: Yeah. The benefit
of being somewhere like Colorado was, we could tell people,
"Hey, we're gonna make a movie," and people were
like, "Wow, really? That's cool! I wanna help!"
Out here in L.A., if you tell people that, they're like, "Yeah,
yeah, shut up, fuck you." We got so much support from
people that just wanted the experience of making a movie,
and none of us, including myself, knew what we were doing.
We just did it a weekend at a time, because we were all in
TONY: Was it kind of a
vindication to get that midnight showing of Orgazmo at Sundance
after they turned down Cannibal! a few years ago?
TP: The real vindication
for me would have been for them to have wanted it and to have
said, "No, fuck you." But you start doing real productions
with other people's money, and you don't really have that
say anymore. I don't have it out for them, but it is ironic,
and it was nice. But the whole independent film festival thing
is a joke; it's just a microcosm of Hollywood.
TONY: What's spedoinkle
TP: The truth is, a lot
of the time when I write songs, I'll make up some stupid word
to fill a gap, knowing how many syllables it needs to be,
and when we record it, we'll replace it with a real word.
I did this song for Cannibal!, and I knew it needed to be
"It's a 'something' day", and it had to be three
syllables. We recorded it that way 'cause I couldn't think
of something, and everyone thought it was great. So I decided,
we should just have people say it all the time. People in
the movie say it out of happiness, out of sadness, out of
anger - it's a completely meaningless word.
TONY: Was that actually
[avant-garde filmmaker] Stan Brakhage in a cameo?
TP: Yeah, Stan was great.
He was one of my favorite people at the film school [at UC
Boulder]. He's been teaching there for years. He was one of
the few people there that was completely supportive of going
out and fucking around. A lot of the other film people there
were like, "You're wasting your time making a movie;
you should be studying theory," and Stan was like, "Fuck
it, go fuck around."
TONY: Why did you credit
yourself as "Juan Schwartz" in the cast list?
TP: I did the same thing
in Orgazmo - well, I didn't use "Juan Schwartz,"
but I left myself out of the opening credits. When you're
watching something and you know the filmmaker is "that
guy," you start watching it with a different eye.
TONY: Well, you South
Park notoriety sort of defeats that now ...
TP: Yeah, that's what
gets stamped on it. Things we did eight years ago get "From
the creators of South Park" put on 'em. It's hard because
both Cannibal! and Orgazmo are coming out, and people are
getting this misconception that we went out and made these
movies just now, and that between those two and BASEketball,
that we've completely bastardized ourselves and made three
movies in three months, which isn't the case, obviously.
TONY: You're doing a South
Park movie for Paramount. Will it be further out-there than
the TV show?
TP: Contractually, it
has to be R-rated. We wouldn't do it otherwise. We just handed
in the script, and it is so hard-core, dude. The script, as
it is now, is easily NC-17. Right about now, Sherry Lansing,
the head of Paramount, is reading it, and she's probably scratching
her eyes out.