It doesn’t come as a huge surprise to discover horror movie-lovers Alice Cooper and Tim Burton had plenty to talk about when the rocker turned up to film a cameo in the director’s new, Johnny Depp-starring movie Dark Shadows. “We had dinner one night in London and we both knew every point of reference,” Cooper recalls. “If he would say, ‘Suspiria’ I would say ‘Dario Argento.’ I see the humor in horror as much as Tim or Johnny does, so we really do fit together.”
The “School’s Out” star plays himself in Burton’s big budget adaptation of the bizarre, supernatural soap opera, which opens May 11. It says a great deal about the eccentric nature of the rock star’s filmography that Dark Shadows is likely to stand as one of its less insane entries. In this week’s Entertainment Weekly, Cooper talks at length about appearing in such cinematic curios as the Mae West vehicle Sextette, the infamous musical Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and the werewolf farrago Monster Dog — as well as his roles in better-received projects like Prince of Darkness and Wayne’s World.
But Cooper’s filmography proved too lengthy — and the man himself too entertaining a raconteur — to feature everything in the magazine. So, as a taster, you’ll find the outtakes from our chat with Mr Cooper below.
Raunchy screen legend Mae West was in her ’80s (at least) when she made this notoriously rotten comedy. The all-star supporting cast included George Hamilton, Timothy Dalton, Tony Curtis, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, and Cooper, who played a piano-playing hotel employee. The rock star recalls that, despite her advanced years, West remained very much the sex kitten, both on- and offscreen.
ALICE COOPER: Keith and Ringo and I were good friends. All of us did the movie just so we could say we did a movie with Mae West. Not even looking at the script, you know. “I got a scene with Mae West in this. I’m going to be able to say I worked with Mae West.” “Did anybody read the rest of the movie?” “No. I just know my scene. I’m going to play an Italian waiter.”
After this scene I did with her on the piano, she says, [adopts sultry, West-ian voice] “Why don’t you come back to my trailer?” I went, “Well, because you’re 86 and I’m not sure if you’re a woman.” And she goes, “Oh, I’m all woman, you can be sure of that.” Which was great. That’s like working with Groucho Marx or W.C. Fields, or somebody like that. You’re really working with a legend — and they don’t let you down!
In the end of course, the film was just awful. We had to look at it and just go, “Isn’t that great? We’re in one of the great awful movies of all-time!”
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)
This big screen adaptation of the Beatles album was another all-star affair — the Bee Gees, Peter Frampton, Steve Martin, Aerosmith, George Burns, and Cooper were just some of the household names involved — and another critical and commercial clunker.
AC: They dug themselves into a hole because, first of all, you’re picking the best Beatles album of all-time and excluding the Beatles. How silly is that? The problem was that I was the only one [of the musicians] who could talk. You know, they got Peter Frampton in there and they put the mike on and he had this little tiny voice. The only guy that really had any acting experience, I think, was me. It ended up where they decided George Burns should narrate the whole movie. That was actually the smartest thing they could have done. There were moments in that movie that were really good. Steve Martin was great in it. There were moments of funny stuff. But the whole premise of the movie was just wrong all the way.
But I did get to do the song “Because,” a Beatles song, with George Martin. I would have done the whole movie just to say I worked with George Martin. We did the song with the Bee Gees doing the back up singing and I sang it like John Lennon. I did my perfect John Lennon. And George says, “Well that’s a very good John Lennon imitation. But how would Alice Cooper do it?” And I said, “Ah! Okay!” And I added the whole creepy element. I sounded like Cyril Ritchard in Peter Pan. I really hammed it up. When I got done with it, George says, “I’m calling John right now. He will die when he hears this.”
Cooper played himself in this Alan Rudolph-directed rock’n’roll story which starred Meat Loaf as the titular amps-fixer.
AC: Roadie was kind of neat. That was based around a girl trying to get to New York to meet Alice Cooper. You never saw “Alice” until the very end but I was mentioned 50 times in the movie. At the same time I got a couple of good lines in there where Alan Rudolph let me write my own, which was great. They kind of did it like a Woody Allen movie where, if you had a funnier line to say, just say it.
The singer has a brief cameo in the Richard Donner-directed, Mel Gibson- and Jodie Foster-starring remake of the old James Garner TV show.
AC: That was a good little cameo: I’m the town drunk. Dick Donner’s one of my best buddies and he says, “You live in Arizona right? Come out and watch us film.” And of course when we got there he says, “Get dressed up because I want you in the bar scene.” I went “Okay, great.” It was a longer scene. But you know how editing goes. They’re gonna go for the best angle on Mel. That’s the way it goes in this business. You have to do your best and, if it gets cut, at least you know you did a great job.
Something Wilder (1995)
Cooper played himself again in an episode of the short-lived Gene Wilder sitcom.
AC: Doing a three or four minute scene with Gene Wilder? That’s an education. You cannot get a better comedian. I went, “Okay Gene, this is me and you for about two or three minutes here.” He says, “Do you know your lines?” And I said, “Yeah, I know my lines, I know your lines, I know everybody’s lines.” And he says, “Okay, then you take off and I’ll follow you through this party. As long as you know your lines, we’re gonna be fine.” It was great.
Dark Shadows (2012)
Cooper once again essays his signature role — himself — in Tim Burton’s 1972-set horror-comedy.
AC: Barnabas Collins wakes up, comes back to life, comes back to Collinwood, where it’s now 300 years later and says, “We must throw a ball.” And they get me and it’s Alice Cooper circa 1972. I do two songs and of course Barnabas Collins is shocked by this Alice character and he doesn’t even know I’m a guy. I think Johnny and Tim both wanted me in the part because if there was any acting I could handle that. That would be an option if they did need me to handle any lines. They also had the idea that here is an icon who’s in the horror genre and 1972 was his year. That was the year when Alice was at his peak.
You can check out the (Alice-featuring) trailer for Dark Shadows below.