WWE Studios boss talks Gene Simmons horror movie deal
It was announced Thursday that WWE Studios is partnering with Gene Simmons to launch a label which will finance and produce horror movies. This new venture is called Erebus, and the inaugural production in the three-picture deal is called Temple. According to the official synopsis, the film concerns “a team of highly trained operatives trapped inside an isolated military compound after its artificial intelligence is suddenly shut down. While investigating the source of the malfunction, the crew begins to experience strange and horrific phenomena as they attempt to uncover who or what killed the team previously stationed at the compound.”
How did this partnership come about? Will there be any chance of the KISS bassist appearing in an Erebus production? And what other films does WWE have in the pipeline? We called up WWE Studios president Michael Luisi to find out.
EW: Before we talk about your new partnership with Gene Simmons, I understand you’re at WrestleMania. Could you paint us a picture of that? What is going on?
Well, it’s WrestleMania weekend, which is definitely the Superbowl, if you’re a WWE fan. It’s our 31st installment. And as I’m speaking to you know, I’m actually looking out the window of my hotel room in San Jose and I can see just massive amounts of WWE fans who are walking around the city.
When you’re backstage at these events, do you feel like a very small person?
[Laughs] When you see our Superstars together, you don’t truly realize how big they are. But then when one of them does a movie with us and they come to the set and they’re around us normal-sized people, you realize just how truly big they are.
Moving on, how did the deal with Gene come about?
We met through a mutual business acquaintance and we sat down together at his home in Bel Air and we hit it off instantly. I discovered very quickly that he has an encyclopedic knowledge of movies. We started talking about our favorite movies, and our favorite types of movies, and we both realized that we loved great horror films. And now we’re moving forward on our first two pictures, so it’s very exciting.
What more can you tell us about those projects?
Well, we haven’t announced the second one yet. The first one is Temple and we are in the process now of discussing [it] with directors. We’ve gotten some pretty interesting and positive reactions from some people that we would be spoiled if they raised their hand and said “We want to do this.” The plan is to get a director on maybe in the next month and then to put that movie into production this summer. And then the second one, I have to keep secret for the time being—but we’re going to movie that pretty quickly forward as well.
What exactly does Gene Simmons bring to the table?
He is a very shrewd businessman, and we think that will serve us well as we partner to seek distribution and exploit these movies. He’s obviously a personality that brings to the table creativity and enthusiasm. So I think in terms of making the movies themselves he’s going to be a great creative partner for us as we movie forward. And then, look, there’s that audience that he brings and that we bring on the WWE side. In terms of raising instant awareness and enthusiasm for our movies, being able to present them to those two massive fanbases—global fanbases—it’s going to be really powerful and raise the bar in terms of what these movies can achieve.
Will he be appearing in any of these films?
That’s an excellent question. I can certainly tell you that I’m going to do everything in my power to convince him to do at least a cameo at some point. But he’ll be the ultimate decision-maker. With Gene, anything is possible. And expect the unexpected.
Could you talk about some of the other upcoming WWE Studios releases?
Sure. We’ve got a movie that’s in postproduction now called Killing Hasselhoff, which is a very funny and irreverent, R-rated comedy. It stars Ken Jeong from Community and David Hasselhoff, playing himself. Ken’s character is a guy who has participated since he was a young man in a celebrity death pool with all of his best friends and he gets into some financial trouble. His pick is David Hasselhoff and he decides that the only way he’s going to get out of those financial straits is by actually figuring out a way to kill Hasselhoff. And then it becomes a very comical journey as Ken’s character attempts to do something horrible but in a very funny and comedic way. There’s lots of recognizable faces in there: Jon Lovitz, Will Sasso, Jim Jefferies. And most importantly—to WWE fans—Hulk Hogan is in the movie as well. So, that’s a fun one for us. We’ve also got a movie, with Jason Blum and Blumhouse, called Incarnate. That’s a a supernatural thriller starring Aaron Eckhart, and we have a Superstar doing a cameo in that named Mark Henry. That’s directed by Brad Peyton, who among other things, did the upcoming disaster film San Andreas, that Dwayne Johnson is the lead in.
And you’re doing another film with the Soska sisters (who previously directed WWE Studio’s Seen No Evil 2)?
We have one that we’ve already done, called Vendetta. That’s going to come out in the back half of the year. That’s with Dean Cain and the Big Show. It’s a revenge thriller but it’s got that very special Soska flair to it. It’s not a traditional horror movie but I think if you’re a fan of the Soska sisters, you’re going to see their signature style all over this movie.
As someone who is still traumatized from watching their film American Mary, I can only hazard a guess as to what that means.
The one thing I can assure you, with Jen and Sylvia, is that the blood is going to flow!