Star Wars Trade | An interview with Kurt Edward Larson
I first became aware of Kurt Edward Larson‘s work through his directorial debut, Son of Ghostman. The Rondo Hatton Award winner is a romantic comedy whose main character aspires to be a horror host. Son of Ghostman is a fun film with a winning premise that draws on Kurt’s vast knowledge of geek culture. Since the horror host fueled romcom, Kurt has since turned his attention to super-heroes (Lunch with the Justice League) and Baseball Cards (Great Moments in Baseball Card History).
Today sees the release of Kurt’s newest short film in which he turns his attention to a subject near and dear to my heart, action figures. Larson has a new short up on Funny or Die in which he engages action figure trading with his beloved Star Wars figures. We catch up with Kurt Larson on the day of debut of his film, Star Wars Trade.
Action Figure Fury: What drove you to write and produce your own films?
Kurt Edward Larson: Like a lot of kids from the 80’s, I fell in love with movies from a very early age. Star Wars, Superman, Dracula, The Goonies… these things captured my imagination in a way that I still find hard to describe. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and the thought of being a part of that industry seemed unrealistic to say the least. Then as I grew into an adult, the Miramax boom happened. Suddenly, you had people like Kevin Smith, Edward Burns, and Jon Favreau making films on their own for very little money. I think that revolution, along with the Damon/Affleck Good Will Hunting Cinderella-esque storyline sealed my fate.
I couldn’t live without trying to tell my stories.
AFF: Your work has a real geek streak running through it. Why do you think these toys, comics and movies stay with us?
KEL: Nostalgia is impossible to ignore, and the things you mentioned represented a simpler time for a lot of us. In some ways, a lot of what’s “cool” now was not only uncool, it was downright embarrassing to like. I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t running around high school telling girls about the most amazing Flash story I had just read. It just wasn’t accepted like it is today. You had to find your little pockets of friends that got it. I remember that moment when you met a fellow geek and the excitement in both of your faces when you realized you weren’t alone! It was so unique and personal for us.
AFF: How did “Star Wars Trade” come together?
KEL: To be honest, I think- like a lot of men in their thirties- I genuinely struggle with my love of the things many would consider childish. I often feel like less of a man because I can’t fix things around the house, I don’t know anything about stocks, and I don’t drink scotch. Point is, the archaic vision of what a man should be is not me. But even though my fandom causes me occasional insecurity, I can’t change who I am or what I like. But what I can do is laugh at the preposterous life I live.
And so, we were in production on a baseball card short, Great Moments in Baseball Card History, and it gave me fond memories of trading baseball cards with friends. I was in my office, surrounded by action figures, and I thought of how ridiculous I am… and it just kind of clicked… what if I was trading action figures at my age? Could that be a thing?
AFF: Any recent experiences actually trading action figures yourself?
KEL: Sadly, no. But in all seriousness, I would totally do it. In a heartbeat.
AFF: What features did you collect as a kid and what were some of your favorite figures?
KEL: Okay, well, like every other kid, I was a Star Wars freak. That’s my thing. No question. I had a lot of the Return of the Jedi stuff, and vividly remember playing with the Ewok Village. There’s also a famous story in my family about the time my brother Eric threw our Millennium Falcon into the wall and shattered it into a million pieces! I was devastated, and just a few years ago he bought me the deluxe version as a replacement. It was actually a real emotional moment for me, because that toy and his actions represented a lot about our relationship.
I also was full-in on the DC Super Powers line. Oh man, I had it all. The Hall of Justice. The mail-order Clark Kent. Darkseid Destroyer! I had a few Secret Wars guys as well, but they just didn’t cut it. I mean, you’re telling me I can either have a weird Iron Man shield or see get a Green Lantern that punches? An Aquaman that swims? Come on man, no contest!
I should also cop to being a huge WWE (F) fan, and I played with the old rubber LJN wrestlers for hours with my childhood friend Johnny Hernandez. I was so jealous, that kid had literally every figure every made from that line. I’d go over to his house and we’d play all day, often fighting about whether Hulk Hogan should win or lose. I always wanted the villains like Paul Orndorff to win, and it became quite the debate!
AFF: What does your collection look like today?
KEL: Way bigger than it should it be. I surround myself with shelves of figures, which you can somewhat see in the video. I have almost the entire Marvel Legends line. I have a weird DC shelf with dozens of figures from different lines, most of the Alex Ross stuff, and a lot of the DC Universe stuff. Another area is my “80s” cabinet- I have ET, Goonies, Michael Jackson, some WWE Classics figures, Tron guys, and a working Intellivision console.
Finally, there is Star Wars. I laugh at it now, but I bought every wave of Power of the Force. I was obsessed. Luckily, I stopped after a while…
The only collection I actively buy right now is the 6 inch Star Wars Black Series. I simply can’t say enough about it. I love every figure and the detail involved. It’s everything I had hoped it would be and more. I’ll be crushed when they eventually discontinue the line!
One more thing- I am a 100% out of box guy. I may keep a few in boxes for fun, but I like my guys out, defying people who see them not to be seduced by how cool they are!
AFF: What is next for you on the film front?
KEL: Tough question. There are two things I’ve been focused on- the most likely next scenario is a comedic web series with my producer Brad Roller. That’s in the crosshairs and fairly easy to execute on our own. I just want to get the tone right.
The ultimate goal is to get my next indie film made, Rewind Side A. It’s a drama with many comedic elements. It’s set in 1982, the suburbs of Chicago, and is by far the most personal thing I’ve ever written. Without going into detail, everything you asked and we touched upon- it’s in the script. I know in my heart that if this film were made, it would connect with so many fellow geeks. It’s everything they want, and it’s my sole goal to bring that to them.
I must make this film, somehow, someway.
AFF: How did your podcast, Stay Cool, Geek, come about and what can folks look forward to there?
KEL: Me being a buffoon, they can expect that! My podcast producer Kelly Dolan wanted to start a geek-themed podcast that was different than all the others, one that had a point of view and wasn’t just all news. So, we talk about news items, but we also go deeper and discuss what it means to like these things. We try to be funny about it. As an example, when I made Lunch with the Justice League, I had all these adults hanging around my house in super-hero costumes, and my suburban neighbors were a bit freaked out. They don’t know me, as I’m new to the neighborhood, and so it provided a lot of comedic insight. How do you reckon with a neighbor like me? And how do I fit into their Homeowner’s Association meetings?
Also, we encourage geeks to learn how to stay cool… it’s easy to get lost in opinion and sometimes I think we as a geek community are unreasonably harsh of our fellow geeks or companies that provide us with entertainment. We try to give people a rounded view of the film industry and why companies make certain decisions, rather than just obnoxiously going off on things we don’t necessarily understand. Yes, Green Lantern is a terrible movie that wasn’t executed properly. And yes, perhaps Ryan Reynolds wasn’t the best choice for the title role, agreed. But there’s a reason he was selected, and when you look at the funnel of choices Warner Brothers reasonably could go with, he made perfect sense. I get it. And by the way, he’ll be fantastic as Deadpool. So, stuff like that.
AFF: One last question, what is the one toy that you either couldn’t bear to part with or that haunts your dreams because you never owned it?
I never had the original 12 Star Wars action figure set. It’s the holy grail for me, and I’ve never been able to get it. I’m sure I had it when I was a kid, but my collection was mostly lost in a move. The original 12 with diorama stand.
That’s it. Those twelve figures are like The Beatles of action figures.
I’m married now, with responsibilities, so I can’t just randomly rationalize that decision…
But one day man, one day…
AFF: Thanks, Kurt! Go check out Kurt’s new film, Star Wars Trade at Funny or Die and vote for it today!