grinding the rumor mill

So the film Grind House is alive and kicking after all. For those of you who haven’t been following this film, Grind House is the brainchild of filmmakers Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, both big fans of the grindhouse genre (think Sixties/Seventies exploitation drive-in flicks). The movie will be made up of two short films, one by each director, that will be bundled back-to-back for release along with some fun fake trailers.
Rodriguez was shooting his portion of the movie in Austin this April when rumors started flying that production had ceased abruptly. (I read a lot of “ground to a halt” cracks.) It didn’t help that Rodriguez and his wife (and producer on many of his films) Elizabeth Avellan announced their separation around the same time. Some people alleged that Rodriguez had fired his entire crew, that Tarantino was going to take over the entire film, or that the film would never be completed. And those are just the non-libelous rumors.

It was all very weird for me because suddenly gossip was flying about a production happening practically in my backyard. Had Austin filmmakers ever attracted so much attention from the grapevine before? None of the rumors I heard were from actual film people in Austin, only from out-of-towners or non-film gossips, so I was skeptical. The only local news source to check in on the issue was the Austin Chronicle, which quietly reported that production had been completed on the film, but that didn’t stop the rumor mill.
But on Friday, The Weinstein Company announced the full cast of Rodriguez’s part of Grind House (including Tom Savini … cool), and set a release date of April 2007. Rodriguez’s short, currently called “Planet Terror,” is about zombies.
[Aside: We sure do love our zombies here in Austin. Rodriguez shot his zombie short here, Austin teen Emily Hagins recently completed the zombie-themed feature Pathogen, and Z: A Zombie Musical has been shooting around town with cameo appearances from the mayor and a certain Texas gubernatorial candidate. And let’s not forget the American Idol zombie protest that backfired.]
It is unclear from the press release whether production is complete on Rodriguez’s portion of the film, although the complete cast listing seems like a good sign. A recent interview with Michael Biehn (who’s in the Rodriguez film) implies that he’s been working on the film for awhile. It is of course possible that problems occurred and The Weinstein Company is trying to bury them under a bright positive press release assuring us all that everything is fine now and the schedule is just as the distributor wants it. Let’s face it, no production is problem-free.
But after all the ridiculous fuss among the gossip set, I feel oddly pleased that Grind House is still happening, that the scurrilous rumors appear to be false and even idiotic, and that my healthy skepticism was probably right on target. This is why I don’t like to report news unless I can find a reliable source behind the information … because if it turns out to be all idle speculation, I won’t look and feel dumb, and I won’t lose credibility. I’d make a lousy gossip columnist, and that’s fine with me.
[news about press release obtained via Cinematical — thanks, Martha!]