Interview – Catherine Mary Stewart

Interview – Catherine Mary Stewart

Some of cinema’s brightest actors/actresses from the 1980s began their career in the Horror and Sci-Fi genre. Among the inspiring talents was Canadian born Catherine Mary Stewart who began her acting career in 1979 staring in The Apple before going onto such roles in Sci-Fi cult classics like as The Last Starfighter and Night of the Comet in 1984.

On her way as established actress, Stewart showed diversity taking parts in comedy films such as 1985’s Mischief and fan-favorite Weekend at Bernie’s in 1989. Showing a passion for acting Stewart continues her career into the new millennium with numerous projects on the horizon. Recently we sat down with the accomplished Stewart for a personal look at her experience in film, her inspirations, and much more. – You started your acting career over three decade ago and have done a variety of different things from Horror, to Sci-fi, to Comedy.  What was it like for you when you landed the lead role as Maggie in The Last Starfighter early on in 1984?

Catherine Mary Stewart – That was one of the best moments of my career. At the time, I sort of took it for granted in a way because I had done a couple of things, but it was the first movie I did when I moved to Los Angeles. I was on a soap opera at the time called Days of Our Lives, so we literally shot Days of Our Lives during the day and The Last Starfighter at night. It was primarily a night shoot. It was interesting and a lot of work, but so gratifying. I just loved that movie. On the set, everyone was so supportive. Lance Guest, who played Alex, is still my friend today. It is one of the best experiences I have had. – The Last Starfighter is now amazingly celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.  In that time, the film has gone on to become a sort of cult classic.  What do you think the key to the films longevity with Sci-fi fans has been?

Catherine Mary Stewart – I think there is a bunch of different reasons and probably everybody has their own individual thought. One of the things I believe is that the audience can really relate to the characters. This is a seemingly real kid who gets to be a part of a fantastic adventure that kids just normally dream about. The characters in the movie are relatable on a real level. It is not overwhelming with special effects. It invites the audience to relate to it.

Also, this was one of the first movies to use CGI. They were not sure if they were going to use digital special effects or traditional special effects like models. It was touch and go there for a while. So literally while they were shooting, they were creating programs to use that are basically the foundation for today’s special effects. That was another interesting part of the movie.

Warner Bros.

Universal Pictures

Catherine Mary Stewart – That was fun as well because I love doing what I do. This movie was more of a shoestring budget. It was a collaborative experience; we were in it together. In a way, we had these really weird hours with this whole downtown LA aspect of it when there was nobody there. There was one shoot, I believe, on Christmas morning so there would be nobody there,well almost nobody unless you look really closely. Apparently, somebody appears. It was kind of interesting. I do not know nowadays if you could get away with it all. It was a real collaborative effort. One day the make-up guy did not show up, so we all had to do our own make-up and – The year 1984 was a big year for you because you also started in another cult-classic called Night of the Comet.  What was the making of that film like?

Again to me, as fantastical as it is, I think the movie is more about the characters who were interesting to the audience. That is what I think gives a movie longevity. When the audience relates to it on an organic level. Yes, we were crazy kids, but it was also unusual because the two lead characters were these young girls and that is nice for an audience, I have a lot of female fans because of that movie. It is empowering for girls.

Atlantic Releasing Corporation

Universal Television – Definitely, especially for the times. You are talking about thirty years ago. A lot has changed, but that was not seen as much back then.

Catherine Mary Stewart – I do not know if it is seen as much now. I sort of feel like that was an unusual event even back then. – Very true.  After starring in a series of genre films, you went on to do some comedic films years later such as Mischief (1985) and Weekend At Bernie’s (1989).  Were the opportunities to dive into the comedic end of things something you embraced?

Catherine Mary Stewart – I absolutely embraced it. As an actor, you want to do as many different genres as you can. I feel like, in my career, I have done lots of different things, which is the best part. I have been fortunate that way. Most recently, I have played the alcoholic rich woman, which is always fun, and I have played a cop. That is what sort of fulfills you as an actor.

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox – Having diversity to play many roles is a great thing to have.  Being that you have been involved in film so many years, you have seen a lot of things change in that time.  In your opinion what are some of the biggest changes in Hollywood over the years?

Catherine Mary Stewart – First of all, film-making is accessible to everyone, because of the digital thing, there are a ton of small, ultra-low budget films. This is good and bad because it is easy for people to make films, but they do not necessarily have to pay their dues or join the union. Actors always want to work. Here there is not as much control. Yes, it is a different business, but everybody tries to make a movie as good as they possibly can. To me, it is not quite as glamorous unless you are one of the huge stars, Tom Cruise or Nicole Kidman or someone like that. It used to be when you got to act in a movie it really felt like you were a movie star. It is more grunt work now. – That makes a lot of sense.  That goes along with the music industry as well. It used to be if you were in a Rock band that you were the biggest thing. There was a mystique about you. Things in music are more accessible as well and more fragmented, more independent. Things can get muddy and that waters things down a bit.

Catherine Mary Stewart – Right, the music business is commercialized so much. All the reality shows that are on, all of a sudden, in order to be a singer, you have to win one of these contests or whatever. It is a different business and you try to stick with it as long as you can. Think that stick-with-it-ness to maintain longevity gives you a foot over the competition. They give up before you do. – That is what it is all about in the entertainment industry.  It is clear you are interest in the Sci-fi, Horror, and Fantasy genres.  What inspired you to be an actress?

Catherine Mary Stewart – Actually, I was a dancer,  I went to London, England to train, and that is where I got into my first movie, The Apple (1979). My background is really in dance, although, I studied theater in school. What inspired me to act or continuing on with it, was just the fact that I loved performance. I did not start acting when I was a kid. It was not my fantasy to be a movie star; it sort of fell into my lap. Once I tasted it and was bitten by the bug, I could not give it up.  The way it happened to be was a little bit backwards. I became an actor and then learned about acting as I went along. – That is very interesting.  Obviously you had the sense for theatrics going from dancing to acting.  My last question for you is pertaining to movies. covers music and Horror films.  If you are a fan of Horror films, what are some of your favorite Horror films?

Catherine Mary Stewart – Honestly, nowadays, because Horror movies are so scary, I am too scared to go to most Horror movies. Yes, in Night of the Comet, there is the zombie influence and stuff like that, but it is really more tongue-in-cheek. I like the Halloween movies and the old classic movies rather than some of the stuff that you see in the theaters, nowadays.

Warner Bros Pictures

Universal Pictures – A lot of the new new Horror films are a little more exploitative, leaving little for the imagination.  What is your take on the overall direction Horror movies have gone in the 2000s?

Catherine Mary Stewart – I agree, I think most of the Horror movies are exploitative. I find it frightening. I always think of somebody watching it and thinking, “That is a good idea. I am going to go out and do that.” That is another reason I do not necessarily cater to them. I also do not think they are well-developed stories; they are very predictable. When I go to a movie I like to sit down, think about what is going on, and follow the story and characters.  I especially like movies where after you leave you feel satisfied and think about it for a long time; not scared out of your wits or horrified by it.

I would say the same thing about Sci-Fi now. It is all about the special effects. There is very little story. You do not really know the characters well. Although, I guess the shock value of being constantly pummeled by special effects is interesting, but it gets old. I think even kids will remember good movies, the way kids then, who watched Last Starfighter and Night of the Comet do, because they have an affection for the characters which is different from being blown away. – There is a sense of instant gratification in society now a days.  Films such as Last Starfighter and Night of the Comet have staying power; those aspects of story telling is coming back though. You look at shows like Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, these have very strong character development and people are drawn to that again.

Catherine Mary Stewart – I think so too. Of course producers are around to make money, that is why you see so many copycats of movies and TV shows. When something of quality draws an audience and makes money for the company, then hopefully that will come back.

I hope also that small movies that are made with integrity, love, and good stories will also come back again. I think they will because you can only watch monsters blowing up things so many times.

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