Like a Troma Virgin
Greetings from Tromaville!
Troma has a long history of finding fresh young talents before they become big stars. We picked up Kevin Costner's Sizzle Beach, USA based solely on the strength of his performance in The Big Chill (he played a dead body).
What isn't talked about very often are the people that Troma rejected, yet managed to somehow become famous without us. This is something we discuss in detail in a special featurette on our new Sexy Box. Troma co-founder Michael Herz and I sit down to talk about the early days of Troma, and why I get a headache every time I hear "Like a Virgin." Ugh, I feel one coming on now. I'm handing this over to Mike Babin, our resident Troma writer.
Madonna: Troma Star That Never Happened
In 1981, Melanie Mintz and Ilan Cohen were the casting directors on The First Turn-On. Like every Troma casting director before and since, Melanie and Ilan worked long torturous weeks. During daylight hours, they would oversee the auditions of hundreds of potential future celebs (like Vincent "Full Metal Jacket" D'Onofrio, who had a small role in The First Turn-On). In the evenings, they would trot from bar to club to bar, dispensing business cards with the Troma number to people they found "interesting-looking." By extracting individuals from the disco underground, they were able to populate Troma films with the extremes of beauty and oddity. One night in May of '81, Melanie and Ilan spotted an unknown young woman in the discotheque Danceteria.
"She was attractive and wild-looking," said Ilan, years later. "But I wasn't sure about giving her the number. I thought she might be a little too 'punk' for Michael and Lloyd."
Despite this, Ilan and Melanie handed the woman a card. Her name, she told them, was Madonna Ciccone.
"She was dressed exactly like she later would be in Desperately Seeking Susan," added Ilan. "She mentioned to us that she was about to make a record. We politely nodded. Everybody was making records back then. It didn't seem like a big deal."
Two days later, Madonna came in for a casting call. Both Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman were present (today Kaufman has no recollection of meeting Madonna). To Ilan's surprise, they both liked her. They told him to set up a second audition, and that she should wear something sexy and suitable for camping.
On the second audition, however, only Michael Herz was present - Lloyd Kaufman was at the Cannes Film Festival. Madonna showed up in a new wave version of a camper's outfit, which she said she made herself - an outfit that showed off her ample bosom.
"I want this role," she told Troma's vice-president. "I really want a role in a Troma movie. I will do anything for this role. Anything."
However, Herz didn't see her as the right actress for the part. After the audition, he told Ilan to thank her, but that they had chosen someone else.
"You're making a mistake," Madonna told Ilan. "I'M GOING TO BE A BIG STAR."
Ilan nodded with gentle condescension. A year later Madonna Ciccone graced the cover of Time magazine.
"I stand by my decision," Michael Herz says today. "She was trying out for the role of a Jewish princess. She acted more like someone's Italian grandmother."
It is no secret that Sizzle Beach, U.S.A., starring Kevin Costner, is the most successful Troma movie in terms of expense-profit ratio. Undoubtedly. A Madonna First Turn-On would have pulled a similar coup. On the other hand, The First Turn-On could have possibly turned out as shitty as the boring sentimentalizing of fascism that Evita is, as opposed to the classic sex comedy it is today.
"I'm still pissed off at Michael about it," says Kaufman. "I bring it up as often as possible."
Then Lloyd makes a little sailor hat out of a Curse of the Cannibal Confederates mini-poster and puts it on his head.
--You can purchase a Sexy Box here!
The Birth of Troma
The Godfather of Gore Speaks
2 or 3 Things I Know About Toxie (2 and 3)
The Troma Acting Method