Rob Zombie Says Joke Derailed 'Corpses' Deal With MGM

Singer and studio offer different versions of movie-scrapping tale.

Perhaps a more fitting title for Rob Zombie's movie would be "House of 1000 Complications."

"It's going to be a good book someday," Zombie said last week of his continuing efforts to bring his much-delayed "House of 1000 Corpses" to the masses.

The bearded singer has spent nearly two years trying to get the low-budget horror flick, which he wrote and directed, out to the public. In doing so, he's encountered a Hollywood development hell that even some of his more frightening characters could not have imagined.

The grisly $7 million movie was originally bankrolled by Universal Pictures, whose parent company also owns Zombie's label, Geffen Records. Universal refused to distribute the movie after studio executives expressed concern over a violent rough-cut depicting torture, witchcraft, mutilation and general, all-around bloodshed (see "Studio Ditches Rob Zombie Movie"). While performing with his band in March, Zombie told a packed Los Angeles amphitheater that he had trimmed "Corpses" down to an R rating, and that it would be released in theaters (see "Rob Zombie Brings Mess Of Evil, Sexual Sensory Overload To Cali Gig").

Three months later, while interviewing Ben Affleck for an MTV "Movie House" segment (see "Cameo: Rob Zombie Interviews Ben Affleck"), Zombie announced that MGM would be releasing his film, which a spokesperson for the studio later confirmed (see "Rob Zombie's 'House Of 1000 Corpses' Finds A Home"). Now the film has been scratched from MGM's docket entirely, and Zombie says it's all because of an offhand joke.

During his "Movie House" interview with Affleck, Zombie had explained how Universal dropped the picture because they found the content to be morally objectionable. When the actor asked about MGM, Zombie joked, "Apparently they have no morals over there. They're happy for some blood."

"MGM got wind of it and got so pissed off they shut us down the next day," Zombie said. "We went into editing, and they were like, 'Get out.' ... They went berserk. And literally, they never called me or any of the producers. They had assistants call the editing room and they were like, 'Get out.' It was over in a second, we couldn't get any resolve on it. It was very strange."

On Monday, MGM denied that they ever planned to distribute the picture in the first place.

"It was falsely announced in [Hollywood trade paper] Variety that we had the project," said an MGM spokesperson who asked not to be named. "We never had a deal with Rob Zombie. We were in negotiations, let's put it that way, or we were thinking about it."

Zombie views the situation differently. "MGM came on board," he said last week. "It kind of never really got out, but they were paying all of the bills, they were editing, it was all on their dime, they were investing. So once the studio's paying their money, you know they're into it."

For now, Zombie's going the do-it-yourself route and releasing the picture independently.

"What I think the reality of the situation is, whether it's MGM or Universal, or whatever, the movie's not anything that a major studio wants to touch," he said. "They don't want to deal with it. Everyone will go, 'What about "Hannibal"?' but 'Hannibal's gonna make $300 million, so they're fine. What we've done now is I own the film, and I just hired a company that will do the prints and the advertising. And I'm just gonna release it myself so it cuts out the middle man."

Despite the series of complex setbacks, Zombie said that his "House of 1000 Corpses" experience hasn't soured him on filmmaking.

"I mean, it was a drag," Zombie explained. "But now, looking back, it was completely unrealistic [to think a studio would release the film]. ... These studios are just such big corporate entities, owned by these other companies, and so many investors and stockholders. It's just [that] they don't want controversy.

"It's just a different time for movies," he added. "I've been talking to a lot of people in the business, and it's just like, there's a lot of movies that you love [that could not be made today]. They'd be hard pressed to get 'Taxi Driver' made now."

For more Hollywood happenings, check out MTV's Movie House.

—Ryan J. Downey, with additional reporting by Iann Robinson