Mothers, Lock Up Your Sons (and Statues):
Tank Girl Comes to Town
(First published in Planet Magazine, 11apr1995)
Though the movie doesn't open until March 31, the massive pre- promotion for Tank Girl (Tank who?) a post- apocalyptic comedy based (loosely) on the popular underground comichas already made household names of both Tank Girl and Lori Petty. If they spent half as much money making the film as they are promoting it, Tank Girl will have to be one helluva movie. [Hindsight note: unfortunately, it wasn't.] [Update, 2007 Hindsight revisited: It's grown on me over the years. I even bought the DVD. Take that, former me of 1995!]
As part of the promotional blitz Petty visited Phoenix's Planet Hollywood to add to the restaurant's decor Tank Girl's tiny cutoff t-shirt and a bowler hat with attached pigtails.
Figuring that an underground comic calls for an underground approach, I decide to record the interview using my Fisher- Price PXL2000 toy video recorder instead of a boring old tape recorder. Actually, the truth is that (a) I know almost nothing about Lori Petty, (b) I've seen only one of her films (A League of Their Own), and (c) got this assignment only the day before. Therefore, I'm thinking I need something to butter her up so she won't hate me for being unprepared. Besides, she's already done tons of interviews for this movieshe's gotta be at least a little bored.
It is impossible to be bored when there's a PXL2000 in the room.
I'm the last to join the rest of the reporters at the press table but the first to be offered a drink by one of the publicity folks. I ask for a vodka and tonic. Everybody else at the table proceeds to order soft drinks or ice tea. Oops. "Err, you did say drink, didn't you?" I say to Publicity Lady. "If drink at one o'clock in the afternoon means vodka to you," she responds, "that's your problem." It certainly is. Score me zero for professionalism. I make sure to pop a stick of gum in my mouth before being introduced to Petty. One doesn't want to be thought unprofessional. Especially when one is recording a celebrity interview using a toy camera.
Fortunately, the PXL does its magic: Petty zeroes in on it immediately.
DoC: It's a toy camera, made by Fisher-Price. It records on
LORI PETTY: Eight millimeter?
Nope. Regular audio cassette tapes.
Get the fuck out!
It looks like surveillance footage. Or an ultrasound.
(She grabs the camera and makes Theme-from-Batman-sounding noises as she turns the camera on me and Planet Hollywood at large. Satisfied, she hands the camera back.)
Okay. It's on.
It wouldn't have occurred to me to cast you as Tank Girl, but I'm glad someone did.
(She seems actually offendedI'm thinking maybe I shouldn't have had that vodka...)
Well, you usually play kind of a...I mean, what do you think Tank Girl would say about ... Free Willy?
Ummmm ... (Laughs) you're right, you're right, you're right!
I don't know, those are just different characters, you know.
Did you campaign for the role or did it just kind of fall into your lap?
Oh, no. Nothing falls into your lap in Hollywood, pal!
I mean, did you really want this part? Were you aware
of the comic?
I was not aware of the comic, but they sent me the script and on the first page of the script there was a cartoon drawing of her and I just bust out laughing! "AAAAAAAHHH! This is ME! I can DO this! I'M TANK GIRL!" I walked in, I'm like, "You guysseriously: I'm Tank Girl." I just knew it, I just saw it, and I did it.
Well, it looks great. I laughed my ass off at the preview trailer, the one where you're climbing all over the tank. Did Booga make it into the film?
Oh, yeah! Yeah! You should see!
Will it spoil anything if you tell me whether it's a costume or it's animated
Oh, no, it won't spoil it. It's amazing! We have animation, we have stills, we have...you know, it's all insane, different kinds of mediums together. But, um...no, no, no, Booogathese guys are fabulous! Stan Winston [Jurassic Park, T2, Interview With The Vampire], who won all these Academy Awards for his special effects and makeup, designed these guys. They're in full-body armor. They have to put K-Y on their whole bodies to get these, like, apparati on. They have these ears that have battery packs, and one guy works the ears. They have these huge, long tails with battery packs, and one guy works the tail. And they're just standing there in, like, hell. And then they have to act. You know how much fun that would be? But they're really great. I love the Rippers [basically, mutated kangaroo-men]. They're one of the most well-received parts of the movie.
You filmed part of the movie in Scottsdale, didn't you? At Fashion Square?
Oh, yeahI forgot about that!
What did you think about Scottsdale? Don't worry, this interview won't come out until after you leave town.
You know, I'll be honest with you. I can't tell you. I worked. I mean, you work like seventeen hours a day, you go in there and it was like guttedI guess this mall like never happened or something?
Ohthen it must have been The Galleria.
Yeah, and it was just gutted. So we had the run of this place!
Yeah! Oh, man, I forgot! You reminded me! Okay, so they had all these empty rooms in these empty stores. So, I had to change clothes real fastyou'll see, in the movieand I go into one of those rooms, I close the door, I change clothes, I go to open the door and the knob falls off. And I'm in a DESERTED MALL. Alone. Screaming. For like twenty minutes!
Tank Girl can handle it.
I kicked the fuck out of that door, man! I was like, BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! And then I'm like, oh well, you know what? They can't really do anything without me. I'll just chill and someone'll find me. Someday.
Are you on the Internet?
I did thatwe set records on there. They said there's never been a bigger response, ever.
There's a Tank Girl discussion group.
I'm curious if you've seen any of the posts. It looks like the Australians are a little concerned about how the Americans will handle Tank Girl.
I don't care! I mean, it's not like we went over to...we didn't go to Jamie [Hewlitt] and Alan [Martin], the creators, and like steal Tank Girl from them and run! They wanted us to make this movie, you know? And they were with us every day. And they loved itthey loved the movie, and they loved me, and it's like, SHUT UP! You know, we didn't...Hollywood didn't go and like, you know, rape Jamie Hewlitt, you know! (Laughs) They wanted us to do this movie. So we did it, and it's great and it's fun and...I mean, I could never live up to anybody's imagination. No one can. If they make a movie out of your favorite book, you're either gonna love it for what it is or hate it. But it's not gonna be what's in your imagination.
Is Malcolm McDowell as odd off-camera as he is in films?
Yeah, he's...he's a very serious, intelligent guy. I meanhe's weird, but...
Does he kid around at all?
Oh, yeah. He was fun. But I like him because he's a lot like me when it comes to work. We're totally prepared, we know what we're doing. Turn the camera on, tell us where to go, and we'll take care of it. There's none of this, like, fuckin' around, you know, being silly or being unprepared, or being drunk. None of that.
(Hoping the chewing gum's masking the alcohol:)
Unprepared, you mean, like bringing a toy camera to an interview?
Right! Exactly like that. (Laughs)
This camera actually is pretty cool.
I like it! I wanna buy one.
Well, you know, they only made them for a short time, and they just kind of bombed.
Can you play it back?
I don't have a monitor here to play it back on now. So, you gonna keep the haircut?
It looks cool.
Thank you. This is long.
You like it, though?
I loved it shaved. Oh, my God! (Time out while she again commandeers the PXL2000) Sorry. Go ahead.
One last question: what do you think of Wagner?
Wagner?! The fuckin' music guy? I don't play him. I listen to dead jazz guys.
No Wagner? Well, can I take a picture of you with Wagner?
Where is he?
I've got him in my bag.
Sure! (She grabs the PXL in order to capture the moment)
This is Wagner.
It's a BUST!
Everybody out! It's a bust!
(Lori Petty licks and kisses Wagner. Something to see, believest thou me.)
Now that's a Tank Girl.
© Deuce of Clubs