Sunday, April 1, 2012

Just Another Day In Gatlin.... Our Interview with Rich Kleinberg

Malachai and Isaac. Those names always "crop" up anytime someone mentions Children of the Corn. But there was another character as equally essential to the story who's "live" footage so to say, was trimmed from the final theatrical version. Once having almost stopped the entity know only as He Who Walks Behind The Rows, Officer Hodgekiss, a.k.a. The Blue Man, met an untimely demise that was to serve as an example for anyone who defied the ruling of Isaac. But what exactly happened to The Blue Man? As it goes in editing, it seems that footage involving a revealing scene was cut but promotional stills were used for various advertising materials and media outlets. Recently, we had the opportunity to talk with Rich Kleinberg who played the very much alive version (for a while anyways) of the iconic blue figure to discuss train stations, body doubles and petitions.

COTCM - By 1984, a brand new generation of horror films had been introduced and the name Stephen King was increasingly becoming a hot commodity with directors and producers in Hollywood. As it was announced that a big screen production called Children of the Corn would soon be taking place in and around your hometown, what was the reason you became involved? Were you a fan of the horror genre or was it the "acting bug" that drew your attention?

RK - I was very involved in Community Theatre at the time and the casting department contacted the theatre for a casting call. Of course we all jumped at the chance to perhaps be a part of it.

COTCM - Just as the major character roles of Burt, Vicky, Isaac and Malachai had to be filled, a casting call for Iowa locals to play the "Gatlin" citizens was sent out as well. For the part of The Blue Man, was there an auditioning process you had to go through and how long was it before you were notified that you had the job?

RK - I remember after getting our photos taken we read a few lines from the scipt. But basically since we were being cast as "Extras" they wanted facial expressions, etc.. I recall having to act as if I were choking and gasping for air.

COTCM -Later on in the film, we see Burt, played by Peter Horton, searching the police station for clues to what has happened in the quiet little town of Gatlin. The actual area selected for Burt's scene was at a train depot station in Sioux City. Was this in the same location that you shot your footage as well?

RK - Yes, both scenes were shot in the deserted train depot in Sioux City. The Blue Man scene was set in an upstairs office and was dressed to look like a small town Police Station.

COTCM - Production stories are always interesting as it gives an insider's look at what goes on behind the camera, not to mention bloopers and other moments that makes being involved on a movie unforgettable. What do you remember about your time on the set and filming your scene? Were there many takes?

RK - What I remember is rushing to get in costume (having to shave my nose hairs for the close-up) then the make-up. It took a couple hours for the make-up artist to do my prosthetic for the slash on my throat. It had to look like a corn knife had slashed my throat wide open. We did, I think, 5 or 6 takes of the scene.

COTCM - In the movie, Job (Robby Kiger) tells Burt that when the cafe massacre happened, he ran to get Officer Hodgekiss, a.k.a. the Blue Man, who had gotten away - that time. After a meeting with the minister, he attempted to burn the cornfield and was stopped unfortunately, by Malachai. If we take both Job's story and the deleted scene into account, it would seem that Officer Hodgekiss wasn't completely taken out by the children at the police station. Was there any hint to you by the filmmakers, the script or otherwise, to indicate that your character had actually escaped his untimely fate, only to eventually be done in later by Isaac's right-hand man?

RK - No, it was my impression that I died with the throat cutting. After getting the cut, I had to slide down the counter and fall to the floor. So I assumed I was dead.

COTCM - For one reason or another, various scenes in a motion picture are always trimmed down or eliminated all together for content, screen time and length. When did you find out that the footage you had shot would not be in the finished version of the movie? It must have been disappointing!

RK - I recieved a call from, I think his name was Fritz? - that my scene was cut from the movie unfortunately for time. I was very disappointed (Booo, there went my moment of fame).

COTCM - Certain movie roles sometimes call for a double to provide as a fill-in for the actor. Depending on the situation, it could be anyone from a stuntman to a stand-in due to the arrangement of the shooting schedule. Most generally though, that double is usually a living person! As your performance of the Blue Man didn't make it onto the screen, another version of the character did. Was it strange seeing yourself as a crucified skeleton and what did you think of his portrayal?

RK - Yes, I always told people that I had to lose a lot of weight for my starring role.

COTCM - Although your part was ultimately cut from the opening sequence, the legend of The Blue Man actually carries on throughout the rest of the movie and even delivers the final clue to tell our heroes how to destroy "He Who Walks Behind The Rows." Did you know from the beginning that your character would play such a major role in the storyline as the continued events of the film took place?

RK - I had no idea that I was such an important part of the film. I assumed I was just another of the murdered townspeople.

COTCM - Even though it was not included in the completed 1984 print, the unused frames did not go unnoticed. What did you think when photographic stills of your scene were actually released and being used to promote the film?

RK - After seeing the photo in a horror magazine, I was really surprised when my scene was cut from the film.

COTCM - You weren't the only member of your family brought in to portray a citizen of a town overtaken as another Kleinberg was accepted into the world of the Children of the Corn. It must have been a fun time for you AND your daughter Jodie to both be performing in a major motion picture!

RK - Even though my daughter Jodie and a lot of our friends were in the movie, my scene was shot at a different time and location, so I really never got a chance to share the spotlight with any of them. I had to laugh in the mornings before my daughter would leave for shooting, she would take hours to fix her hair just right and put on make-up etc. I told her she would have a better chance at "screen" time if she didn't look so good.

COTCM - Over the years, many fans have expressed an ongoing interest in the lost "Blue Man" segment and it has even become the focus of a post entitled - The "Cut Scene" Petition, right here on our site. How do you feel about all of the support to hopefully finally see your footage in its entirety?

RK - I think it's great that there is a movement to perhaps have a 30th Anniversary Edition of Children of the Corn, restoring the "cut scenes" back into the movie.

COTCM - On a movie set, props and costumes are widely used to make the story believable and bring it to life for the audience. Rich, it is our duty as Children of the Corn fans to ask this question - Were you able to keep the blue uniform?

RK - No, the only thing I was able to walk away with was the prosthetic made of wax on my throat.

COTCM - Almost 27 years have past, but The Blue Man (Yes, The Blue Man!) is still remembered and has remained just as iconic as the characters of Isaac and Malachai. Looking back, what are your thoughts on the experience and what would you like to see possibly happen for the upcoming 30th anniversary?

RK - Wow, 27 years, it dosen't seem possible. I'm really pleased that the Blue Man is still remembered and that the film has become somewhat of a cult classic. When doing the film, and never having read the Stephen King short story, I had no idea my small part had such an infuence on the storyline. I think it would be great to have a screening of the 30th Anniversary edition right here in Sioux City and have to as many local "actors" who were in the film return for the occasion.

COTCM - Rich, thank you so much for sharing with us your memories about your time in everyone's favorite town of Gatlin. Any final words to the fans?

RK - I really had a great time with my "Children of the Corn" experience. Incidentally, I was in Wal-Mart last week and they had a new DVD of "Children of the Corn". I should maybe go back and buy it. Maybe it has deleted scenes in it's special features. In any case, I look forward to perhaps seeing it one day in it's full restored version. Keep me informed of any premieres, etc.. Until then, may the Blue Man protect you. - Rich