Night of the Comet star, Kelli Maroney [Samantha Belmont], was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to take part in an email-based interview. Members of this site were given the opportunity to post their questions to Kelli via the Discussion Boards (Members’ names are indicated by [username]), and the resulting interview is posted below.
Interview (Via Email) With Ms Kelli Maroney (June 2007)
Nightofthecomet.info: How Did You Come To Be Involved In Night Of The Comet?
Kelli Maroney: I was visiting CA with some friends who were here testing the waters and thinking about coming west from NYC. We were all actors. I was with Writers and Artists Agency at the time, so when I came out they scheduled me some meetings and auditions. After Fast Times at Ridgemont High I had gone back to NYC and done my soap role of Kimberly on Ryan’s Hope for a while longer. Anyway, I met with the producers of NOTC in a typical casting session. I auditioned a few times, felt pretty good about it, but then went back to NYC. It wasn’t until about 4-6 weeks later that I got a call saying that they wanted me to play Sammie and where the hell was I?
NI: What Was It About Night Of The Comet That Attracted You To The Script? [Spazfu]
KM: I thought that Sammie was both tough and vulnerable, smart and ditzy at the same time. I liked her struggle to compete with her older sister even while she knew it was
NI: What Was Your Audition Like? How Many Times Did You Have To Audition Before They Gave You The Part? [Tailspin 365]
KM: I had an audition with the casting person and the producers Wayne Crawford and Andy Layne. I asked them at the time if I could read for both parts and they said no, just Sammie. I was actually worried that there would be more competition for Sammie than for Reggie. Then I went back again to read for everyone; the writer/director, etc and they paired up ‘Sammies’ and ‘Reggies’. I can’t say that I remember meeting Cathy at the time. I believe that Heather Lenkencamp (Nightmare on Elm Street) also read for Sam. I auditioned for her role to Wes Craven too, but apparently we each got cast in our own historic roles. ; )
NI: How Was Your Character Pitched To You?
KM: It wasn’t exactly pitched to me at all. I think they probably said she was fun, annoying, Valley Girl, clueless… stuff like that.
NI: What Preparation Did You Do For The Role, And Who (If Anyone) Was Your Inspiration When Playing Sam?
KM: We were sent to the professional shooting range and taught to use automatic weapons properly. There is a family member that I was thinking of at times for Sammie, but really it was just my own experiences in trying to keep up with older girls, worrying about ever getting a boyfriend and finding love, imagining what it would feel like to have your whole life disappear on you in one night like that, and to have to defend yourself and your sister, stuff like that.
NI: How Long Did The Film Take To Shoot?
KM: The whole film was shot in about six weeks. That was all the time we had.
NI: Comet Was Filmed On A Very Limited Budget. Did You Feel The Constraints Of That At All?
KM: Well, it wasn’t a fancy set, that’s for sure. We had one make-up and hair guy. One day he didn’t show up and Cathy and I didn’t know what to do. The producers said to get ready, we were girls, weren’t we? We went, “Oh, yeah…”.
While shooting downtown, which we did a lot of because it was more deserted than most of LA, we had a food wagon and some tables set up for dinner break. I turned around and there were about five homeless guys in line behind me; they thought it was a soup kitchen. So, we fed them.
We had one or two little trailers for dressing rooms, ‘honey wagons’ they are called. But no, I wouldn’t say we felt like “oh, we don’t have enough money to shoot this” at all.
NI: Can You Tell Us A Little About The Filming Of The Movie, Such As How Those Abandoned Street Sequences Were Filmed? I Know I’m Not The Only One Who, Watching The Film As A Kid, Never Knew It Was A ‘B Movie’…Even Today It Holds Up Well. Any Special Techniques The Director Used That Gave It A Really Legit/Nice Look. [Hilljayne]
KM: Well, as I said, we used downtown a lot because it was so much easier to make it look like no one else was around. We shot early morning weekends. Lighting played a huge role of its own. Production Design… I was in mostly bright colors and Cathy was in more somber hues wardrobe-wise. We said at the time that every penny of the budget was on the screen and having just seen it screened, that is still true. When you are telling a human story you don’t need a lot of special effects. Small, key shots were used to pretty nice effect to give the audience the emotional sense of LA being empty, like the automatic timers going off anyway, and the radio station being on automatic pilot. Later, Hector’s house has the record player still going, and so on. This is one reason why I believe that film makers today should leave films like NOTC alone and create their own stories. There isn’t anything that a bunch of fancy special effects today would add to NOTC and in fact, that stuff would probably ruin it by taking the human quality out of it that people respond to in the first place.
NI: When Did You First See The Final Cut Of The Film?
KM: I watched the dailies (which are shown almost every day) of the film that was shot the day before. I didn’t get to see the whole thing done when it came out because I was back in NYC working on a soap. I had taken the part of Tina on OLTL [One Life to Live] because my money had run out! In retrospect, I wish I had stayed in LA and just waitressed or couch surfed until it came out because I missed all the excitement.
NI: What Were Your Thoughts On It, Was It What You Expected It To Be?
KM: Yes, having seen the dailies, I thought they did a terrific job of it.
NI: Were There Any Scenes That Didn’t Make It Into The Final Cut?
KM: Nope, there were no scenes that didn’t make it into the film. What you see on screen is the whole original film. We shot in such little time that there was no extra film to play around with later!
NI: Looking Back Now, As A More Experienced Actress, If You Could, Would You Change Anything About Your Performance?
KM: Well, I braced myself this past weekend at the Los Angeles Film Festival screening, because I hadn’t seen it in so long. I was reminding myself that I was just a kid at the time, and how good could I expect myself to be, after all. Other than some lines I could have said differently, probably not. I was always playing with my lines back then, too. You always do as an actor.
NI: Many Actors Don’t Like Watching Themselves Perform. Are You Comfortable Watching Yourself On Screen?
KM: I am semi-comfortable. And uncomfortable. It’s kind of weird watching yourself. Sometimes I’m happy with what comes across in a scene, and sometimes I pick on myself.
NI: When Did You Last Watch Night Of The Comet?
KM: I hadn’t seen it for a long time until it came out on DVD. I watched the DVD finally to see what MGM had done with it. Then just last weekend, I got to see a proper screening of it after about 20 years.
NI: The Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Scene In The Department Store Looked Fun To Film. Did You Really Get To Try On Any Clothes You Liked?
KM: It was fun… we laughed ourselves silly. Yes, we tried all the clothes on because it wasn’t merchandise, it was props and costumes that the wardrobe and art department dressed the set with. We didn’t touch much of the real store items except for the hats and things like that.
NI: What Would You Do If You Found Yourself In Sam’s Position; As One Of The Last People On Earth?
KM: I like to think I would do as well as Sammie did!
NI: It’s Been Over 20 Years Since Comet Was Released, Although It Wasn’t Really A Box Office Hit At The Time, The Film Has Developed A Sizable Cult Following. What Do Think It Is About The Film That So Many People Relate To?
KM: Actually, although it didn’t run in theaters for long, it got great reviews. Siskel and Ebert gave it two thumbs up…Ebert said, “Go see it, and go see Kelli Maroney.” Which I treasure to this day. We got a NY Times critic’s pick and everything. Unfortunately, we were hustled out of the theaters because they were having a time problem and needed to release the film 1984 while it was still 1984, and they thought it would be a huge hit, which it wasn’t I guess. So, we had new life on cable. I think audiences felt the ‘heart’ that we put into the film and our performances. Also, rather than being superheroes and high tech, we were just regular people that had a shocking thing happen to them. Much like John McClane in Die Hard, we didn’t want to be there, but we had to deal with our situation. I think people relate to that in their own lives. I know I do.
NI: You And Catherine Mary Stewart Had A Great On-Screen Chemistry As The Belmont Sisters. Did You Become Friends, And Have You Kept In Touch?
KM: Cathy and I were instant friends and we have indeed kept in touch over the years. That was just a really lucky piece of casting. Cathy is Canadian and I am from Minnesota so we probably had similar values and sensibilities. Neither of us were buying into the usual Hollywood crap.
NI: Did You Get Along With The Crew? [Art]
KM: The crew were all fantastic. They were having a great time, too. They couldn’t believe the silly stuff we were all coming up with and they’d also already worked for Andy Lane and Wayne Crawford. I talk about how wonderful the first AD (assistant director) Gordon Booz was to me on my IMDb page.
NI: Was There Anyone You Hungout With More Than Others On A Regular Basis?
KM: I would say that we all hung out. Me, Cathy, Robert, Thom, the Producers, Gordon and the crew all had fun together and liked each other.
NI: Have You Kept In Touch With Anyone From Comet?
KM: Well, I did another movie with the writer/director, Thom Eberhardt called Face Down. That was a great experience too. Cathy I talked about already. I haven’t seen Robert in a long time. There’s a picture of me and Geoffrey Lewis at an autograph signing, celebrating his birthday.
NI: The Way In Which You Delivered Your Dialog Is Such A Strong Point Of The Film; Practically Every Line Seems So Natural And ‘Off The Cuff’. How Closely Did You Stick To The Script? Were Any Of Those Lines Ad-Libbed Or Improvised? [Valanx]
KM: Thank you! I noticed at the screening the other night that we as actors were imitating Thom Eberhardt’s speech patterns a lot during the dialogue…like muttering to ourselves – he does that. On a set everyone has a habit of getting into sync with each other and having catch phrases and things like that. You really notice it in Woody Allen movies, too. Everyone talks like him! We did that. I also pretty much talked that way myself, and still do. That’s part of being right for a part; being able to slide into the way the character talks easily. I said what Thom wrote word for word.
NI: To What Extent, If Any, Did You Have Control Over The Things Your Character Said? [Valanx]
KM: Well, being a pretty new actor in the business, I pretty much had no control, I guess. If I did, I don’t remember.
NI: This May Sound Like An Odd Question, But You’ve Mentioned In Some Other Interviews That You Still Have The Cheerleader Outfit You Wore In The Film – And It Still Fits. If You Could, Would You Want To Be Buried In That Outfit When You Pass Away? [Superstarman]
KM: LOLOLOL!!!! Oh, no, please don’t bury me in that cheerleading outfit!!
NI: There Was Talk Of You Developing A Sequel With The Help Of Comet Director Thom Eberhardt. We Know Now, That MGM Won?T Release The Rights. What Would You Have Liked To Have Done With The Sequel? Where Did You See The Story Going?
KM: I don’t really want to tip my hand anymore than I already have regarding my plans for a NOTC sequel. It seems like every time I want to do anything with the film… someone beats me to it, so I’m shutting up!
NI: Do You Think Hitting MGM With A Fan-Based Grassroots Movement Would Be Of Any Value? Do You Think It Would Do Any Good To Bury MGM In Requests To Relinquish The Rights? Or Whether They Would See That As A Good Reason To Hold On To Them, Perceiving A Market They Should Address Themselves. Any Thoughts On What We Might Be Able To Contribute To The Effort? [AlrightHector]
KM: Well, that’s a great question. I’m not sure that I know. I think the fact that I was after the rights, got them to hold on to them and release the DVD really quickly, after all these years of no one doing anything. I am very relieved that so far they have not sold them to anyone else who has gone after them. So many of these re-make guys want to do a quick, fast buck ‘re-make’ and I REALLY don’t want that to happen!! So far MGM has refused to sell them, Thank God. I would like a sequel myself, to see what happened to the characters after I rode into the sunset with DMK…and I have many ideas. I told MGM that I would like to at least be an advisor/producer on whatever they do, even a ‘re-m$$ke’ because at least I could try to keep the good stuff in the film that way. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to bury MGM with letters.
NI: Many Fans Were Disappointed With The Lack Of Extras On The Recent DVD Release Of Comet. If MGM Had A Re-Think And Asked You To Do A Commentary Or Interview For A Special Edition, Would You Do It?
KM: Of course. I offered to in the first place!
NI: Do You Think You Might Record Your Own Commentary And Allow Fans To Hear It? [Art]
KM: I am waiting to see whether MGM does a second release with extras on it and if they don’t, and I can legally do one for the fans, I will.
NI: Are You Doing Any Work Behind The Camera? Writing, Directing Or Perhaps Producing? [Partick]
KM: I’m producing. I did a short film “sam and mike” that did the festival circuit and won some awards and now I am producing SnuggyBear and the T-shirt Kidswith First Take Motion Pictures later this year. I am also producer and star of Nightmare Carnival and Shadowland; two films that I am excited about and plan to go into production on in the Fall, fingers crossed and all the budget together, of course. I am still gathering investors and backers for those films.
NI: Surely You Have Been Asked Every Question Under The Sun About NOTC…But Is There A Question You Wished Someone Would Ask? [Farrow]
KM: This is my favorite question of all time and the one that I wish someone would ask. Seriously, I thought and thought, and then I realized that this was the question. Thank you.
I love you guys,