As Americans get ready to head to the polls, the timing couldn’t be better for a fresh look at John Carpenter’s 1988 sci-fi flick They Live. Fortunately, a brand new Blu-ray version of the film is hitting stores on election day. Aside from a slew of new bonus features and a crisp-as-a-hundred-dollar-bill high-def transfer, the film (about a blue-collar drifter who finds a pair of sunglasses that allow him see that aliens have turned us all into passive zombies) comes complete with an incendiary class-warfare political message that’s just as relevant today as it was back at the height of the Reagan/Bush era. If all of that doesn’t seal the deal, there’s also this: the sight of pro wrestling legend Rowdy Roddy Piper spouting his gem of a one-liner: I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass…and I’m all out of bubble gum.”
On the eve of the Blu-ray’s release, we got an EXCLUSIVE peek at some of the disc’s new extras and spoke with Carpenter about his rage-against-the-machine classic…
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How do you think They Live holds up in 2012?
JOHN CARPENTER: Oh man, I haven’t seen it. I don’t watch my films. I’ve seen ’em enough after cutting them and putting the music on. I don’t ever want to see them again.
It seems very timely with the election coming up and all of this talk of one-percenters?
Well, They Live was a primal scream against Reaganism of the ’80s. And the ’80s never went away. They’re still with us. That’s what makes They Live look so fresh — it’s a document of greed and insanity. It’s about life in the United States then and now. If anything, things have gotten worse.
Is it a movie you think people should see before they step into the voting booth?
Nah. It’s just a movie.
What made you want to make this movie after your run of hits in the first half of the ‘80s like Escape From New York, The Thing, and Big Trouble in Little China?
I read a comic-book version of the story when I was a teenager and then, in the ’80s, I went back to the Roy Nelson short story Eight O’Clock in the Morning and it had a framework that I thought I could use to do an off-beat science fiction film. So I took this idea that the aliens are here around us, we just don’t know it because we are hypnotized by media. And we can’t see because we don’t have the right glasses.
You say in your interview on the Blu-ray that you think aliens should always be evil.
Yeah, I think so. There’s no story if they’re not.
So you’re not a fan of E.T.?
Well, I remember seeing Close Encounters and thinking, Really?! They’re kind? And we cry at the end? Ay yi yi. That’s just not my thing.
Tell me about casting Roddy Piper. Why did you want a professional wrestler instead of a professional actor for the hero of the movie?
First of all, I was a wrestling fan when I was young. Even when I figured out what wrestling was, I was still a fan. To me, Roddy just had a weathered face and looked like he’d been working all his life. He wasn’t a Hollywood star. He had some scars on his face and I thought he would be convincing walking into town with a backpack on his back looking for work. I’d met Roddy at Wrestlemania 3 in Pontiac, Michigan. He was a great heel.
Did you have any doubts about whether he could pull it off?
I had all the confidence in the world. Plus, his being a wrestler allowed us to do that whole long fight scene, which I’m extremely proud of.
NEXT: CARPENTER ON THAT FAMOUS FIGHT SCENE