Monday, August 20, 2012

80s Retrospectives: Troll with writer Ed Naha: Did JK Steal his idea for Harry Potter?

A young boy named Harry Potter finds himself in a world of goblins and fairies. Am I talking about Harry Potter? Hell no, years before J.K would pen her wizard fable Ed Naha wrote something eerily similar. Troll has a awesome cast from everyone from Sonny Bono to Julia Louis Dreyfus (years before Seinfeld) 

Troll is a crazy roller coaster ride and is a hell of alot of fun. Not popular at the time, these films are quickly growing a hardcore fan base of its own. Award winning writer Ed Naha sits down with Gorehound Mike to talk about writing this cult classic. 

                        Writer Ed Naha and his Memories of Troll

“Troll” was my introduction to Charles Band. I had recently moved to California
from New York and made ends meet by both writing books and covering films for “The
New York Post.” Back East, I had written a book on Roger Corman and wound up
writing my first two screenplays for him once I made the move.

I was sent a press package for a really odd film called “The House Where Evil Dwells.”
I mean, you know you’re in WothaLand when a spirit possesses a woman’s bowl of soup
and her reaction is “There’s an awful face in my soup.” Anyhow, it was produced by
Albert Band, Charlie’s Dad and a wonderful, wonderful guy. He loved making movies.
So, I did a phone interview with him about the film for the newspaper and, having no
pride whatsoever, told him that I’d just written two low-budget films and if he ever
needed a writer…call. (Pleasegod.)

A few months later, he did call. They were having problems with a script for a movie
called “Troll.” I went to Empire and met Albert who, then, introduced me to Charlie and
Debra Dion, who oversaw a lot of productions there.

They described the movie to me in broad strokes. I don’t know whether they had an
outline or an actual script but they didn’t show it to me. I think it was a pretty straight-on
horror premise. The cast is stalked by a troll. So, we all chatted about how it shouldn’t
be a straight-on horror film. Hokay. Now, what? I was hired, my agent did the deal and I
was off and running, or at least walking quickly.

I’d written two sci-fi mystery novels featuring a futuristic reporter/sleuth named “Harry
Porter.” So, I figured, as an inside joke shared with me, myself and I, I named the father
of the protagonist “Harry Potter.” The protagonist was named “Harry Potter Jr.” Little did
I know, eh?

Anyhow, once I got into the script, I met director/special effects designer John Beuchler
and he took me to his creature shop – I think it was in his garage - and showed me some
of the initial artwork and models.

I handed in the script and that was that, for me, anyhow. I have to tell you that the folks at
Empire were great to work with. I mean, the script was definitely “out there.” You had a
tough-talking witch upstairs, a dwarf who recites epic poetry, and a father who plays air-
guitar to Blue Cheer’s “Summertime Blues.” It certainly was different. And, the odder it
got, the more excited the folks at Empire got.

When the film was completed, Debbie Dion proved herself to be a saint. My parents were
visiting from New Jersey and she arranged a screening for them at Empire. So, the three
of us watched the movie together. My parents were impressed. I mean, nearly everyone
who’d ever been on TV in the 60s and 70s, from Gary Sandy to Sonny Bono, was in the
cast. I think the only thing that could’ve made my mother more elated was having Tony
Orlando and Dawn wandering around.

The movie was released and a lot of folks found it, um, odd. Some loved it. Others had a
more “WTF?” reaction. Over the years, it attracted a solid following – probably because
a lot of kids saw it when they were young. I mean, it’s a family horror film, kinda. All the
folks who are victims of the troll are transformed into whatevers in very cartoonish ways.

Of course, once Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books were published, the inevitable happened
within the toobz of the Internetz. I have to admit, I was the last to stumble upon
the “Troll” vs. “Potter” imbroglio. There are some folks who swear that Rowling, whilst
on the dole, viewed the VHS and was inspired. If that’s the case, God bless her. Her
Harry had a lightning bolt on his forehead but never rocked out to Blue Cheer.

For the last decade or so, there have been various announcements concerning a “Troll”
remake or a sequel or a series of festive hats. (I made that last part up. Could you tell?)
All I know is: I’ve never been contacted. I’ve never been approached. I’m not involved.
So, you can be pretty sure that, if there is another “Troll” flick, nobody will be playing air
guitar to “Summertime Blues.”

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