April 30, 2018 Interview – Michael Gross Talks The Return of Tremors
It is not often you have a chance to go back and relive a special time, not just for nostalgic purposes, but in an impactful matter. Seasoned Actor Michael Gross has been blessed with the chance to do just that when he was asked to return to the silver screen in 2015’s Tremors 5: Bloodlines. Gross, the only actor to be a part of every Tremors film since the franchise debuted in 1990, admittedly never thought he would have a chance to play the monster-hunting Burt Gummer ever again, but fortunately for fans he was pulled right back in.
Now on the verge of releasing the brand new sixth Tremors film, Tremors: A Cold Day In Hell, the beloved Gummer faces new challenges, confronts his past, all while still kicking some serious Graboid ass! Recently we caught up with Gross to talk the resurrection of the Tremors franchises, what reprising Burt Gummer means to him, the story behind the latest film, potential plans for the future, plus much more.
CrypticRock.com – Last we spoke, in 2015, you were on the verge of releasing Tremors 5: Bloodlines, the resurrection of the franchise. Now you are set to release a new Tremors film, Tremors: A Cold Day In Hell, out on May 1st. What has it been like to see the franchise come back after a long hiatus.
Michael Gross – It has been fun for me, because number one, I thought I would never play Burt Gummer again. Part of me missed him, he is a great comic character. When something is that much fun, you hate to see it go completely. I thought we were finished with our little quartet. To do 5 was exciting, and the fact now that we have a 6th coming out, was another chance to get it right. Now, I don’t always get it right, but I can keep trying. Another opportunity to get it right is always a good one. I was thrilled that we were back, I didn’t think it would happen.
CrypticRock.com – It is great to see the franchise is back. As you said, this was really a pleasant surprise for you. Now you have 2 Tremors films in 3 years. What was it like reprising Burt for Tremors: A Cold Day In Hell? This is a unique film in the series, especially due to the location.
Michael Gross – Exactly, and that was one of the things we wanted to do. Tremors was a little different in the 5th than what it was in the first 4 films – a new audience if you will, 13 years since the last film. We just wanted to try and play with it a little bit more. As you mentioned, we had always been in arid climate, we wanted to try something else, why not? Why just a dry land monster, why just a warm weather monster? This made sense in terms of climate change and things like that.
That was one idea we had and another was to keep challenging Burt in personal ways. Tremors 5 was a challenge for Burt personally, because he is a misanthropic kind of guy by definition. What does it mean to a loner? What are the challenges to a man whose son appears out of nowhere – a blood relative saying, “Hey, I’m yours and your mine, aren’t we a pair?” For a man who wants mostly nothing to do with other human beings, that is a challenge.
We decided to take that challenge a little further in Tremors 6, and without giving too much away, the big challenge for Burt is how does a man obsessively and compulsively a control freak, a man who likes to micromanage everything, how does he give over some of that control to someone else. Through no fault of his own as well, he simply has to, he has no choice. Does he do it gracefully? Does he do it kicking and screaming? What is it like to have to face that? Not just as an older man, but someone who has to give up control at any point in his life, he is so used to having throttle in his hand, if you will. We thought it would be an interesting personal challenge to throw at him.
CrypticRock.com – It works well. This is a very fun Tremors film. Jamie Kennedy does a great job as Travis. The chemistry you two share is apparent and does not feel forced. There are also some new characters introduced such as Jamie Lee-Money as Valerie. What was it like working with this cast.
Michael Gross – Absolutely wonderful, there is some great talent. Of course, Jamie Kennedy is wonderful and we so enjoy working together. Jamie Lee-Money is part English, part South African, and she is an absolute dear. Again, without giving too much to away, it was an homage to the past. For many years, people have been asking, “When are you guys going to go back to Perfection, Nevada? Where it all started in Perfection Valley.” We wanted to bring back Perfection, which appears very early in the film. We wanted to bring back an homage to Perfection and Tremors 1, and a couple of places you see that in this new film. Again, without giving away too much, Jamie Lee-Money is part of that. That was fun to deal with.
We are always so fortunate to have nice people in the cast, there has never been a sour grape in the bunch. I guess they look at the script and know what they are in for. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears when they look at the script and the action. There are never complainers on the set, there are always people willing to work and willing to work hard. They are the best.
CrypticRock.com – That is great to hear. This group you have here, very much does seem like an homage to the original Tremors from 1990. Everyone teams up together to resolve the issue with the Graboids. Now, this film takes place in Canada, but you shot in South Africa, yes?
Michael Gross – We actually wound up having to shoot it in South Africa, because our first choice of locations was so snowed in by blizzards that we were unable to get trucks/equipment in and out of these areas. It would have been an expensive logistical nightmare, so we were forced to go to South Africa for our arctic scenes. It actually worked well in terms of the storyline, of course the storyline is global warming has thawed the permafrost. So creatures who have been locked up there for millenia are sudden being released. It worked well and Burt naturally was prepared for the arctic, but finds himself in an unusually warm, arctic summer, but we had intended to have a lot more snow, let’s just put it that way.
CrypticRock.com – It worked out well. The film looks great, even the effects look strong. They do not seem to be overboard with CGI. There does seem to be a balanced mix with practical effects.
Michael Gross – There was, and we love that mix, and we love when that can happen. As you might guess, budget determines a lot of that. They got some very good CGI people working as well.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and budget does have a lot to do with what you are able to do. Your character of Burt Gummer really has kept Tremors alive all these years, you deserve that credit. You mentioned in our previous interview that the reason you came back was because you believed in the new material. That said, could we perhaps see you return for another Tremors feature?
Michael Gross – I absolutely could. In fact, so might Universal Studios. We have already had a couple of meetings of possible plot, character outlines, and locations for a Tremors 7. Now let me add, that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, bean counters decide that sort of thing – they look at sales, interests, and that sort of thing. Might it happen? Might it not? Who knows, but the fact Universal was even entertaining the idea is fun. Jamie, the director, and I were already thinking of new ideas when we were shooting 6 – wouldn’t it be fun to bring Burt here, take him there? Of course Universal doesn’t want me talking about any of those possibilities at this point, because who knows if it will ever happen or not. It could happen.
CrypticRock.com – That would be great to see. Why not? The franchise is doing well, it is not lagging. The last 2 films have been quite solid.
Michael Gross – It’s always hard for me to watch, because you don’t have the perspective, and when you are living with it, you lose a little bit of perspective. You keep thinking this is the cure for cancer, which of course it is not, it’s just a film. (Laughs) It’s easy to lose your perspective and objective when you are so much a part of it, so it’s always nice to hear from others. In closing, I would have to say, if we do a 7th film, is to put Burt in an even more awkward position personally. Professionally, he is at the top of his game, he knows how to monster hunt, no question. You want your monster hunted? You come to Burt Gummer. Personally, I want him to deal with some of his own monsters – proximity to others, giving over control, and some other mountains I think he can climb. I would like to see that part of the mix.
CrypticRock.com – Hopefully it will happen. Last question for you. Now, you also were a very important part of the success of Family Ties. Last year marked the 35th anniversary first aired, next year is the 30th anniversary since the final episode. Has there been any talks of some sort of a reunion?
Michael Gross – I very much doubt it. It’s ironic, because it’s a time where America can use something like that. If you remember, that was a time where political loyalties were very much split in that house, but was always settled amicably. It is a shame we can’t do that as easily these days in America, settle our political differences as amicably as the Keaton family was able to do, we certainly could use a bit of that. That being said, our executive producer, the heart and soul of Family Ties, passed away about 6 years ago. Also, a lot of the writers have gone in different directions. In fact, I did a film with Marc Lawrence, with one of the writer’s from Family Ties, over the holidays.
I see Michael J. Fox personally when I am on the east coast. When I get out to New York, I try and have breakfast or lunch with him. Meredith Baxter and I just did a short play together at Bucks County Playhouse in Pennsylvania. We hope to take some of that on the road perhaps this fall or next spring. That may do for the Family Ties, seeing Steven and Elyse Keaton again together on the stage!
CrypticRock.com – That is great. You are right, America could use something like Family Ties again.
Michael Gross – It’s a logical question. People have come to us, with the rebooting of Roseanne, asking, “Are you guys going to get together again?” I don’t think it’s going to happen, but it would be kind of fun if you could really relight that fire again. It was such a special time.