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32 Things We Learned From James Gunn and Nathan Fillion’s Slither Commentary

By  · Published on May 5th, 2015

SLITHER commentary

The latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe hits theaters this week so we decided to revisit an early film from the director of their most recent blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy. James Gunn got his start working with Troma Entertainment before directing his first feature in 2006. Slither was a critical success before disappearing quickly from theaters, and it’s become something of a cult favorite in the years since.

Gunn and his leading man, Nathan Fillion, recorded a commentary track for the film’s DVD release ‐ Gunn is in the studio while Fillion is on the phone from Vancouver ‐ and since both men seem to be fairly entertaining in their own right their combined efforts on the commentary sounds like a recipe for fun. Is it? Was it? Let’s find out together!

Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for James Gunn’s Slither.

Slither (2006)

Commentator: James Gunn (writer/director) and Nathan Fillion (actor)

1. Fillion asks where the idea for the film originated, and Gunn says the first image that hit his mind was of a young woman with an alien-like worm flapping and burrowing into her mouth. The story and title came later as he decided to bring back the feel of the films he loved from the ’80s. Specifically, he mentions wanting to honor The Fly, The Thing, Basket Case, Return of the Living Dead and more.

2. A couple different studios wanted to produce the film, but Gunn went with Gold Circle and Universal because they wanted to start production immediately and offered him real freedom.

3. Gunn’s intention with the character of Starla was essentially “the Hitchcock blond,” and he found it in Elizabeth Banks. He saw other actresses, “they had the sort of WB good looks… but Elizabeth really has that old-time grace.”

4. Gunn admits to casting the actor to play Hank (James Gunn) when he was drunk. “I’m just wondering why you cast such a homely man,” asks Fillion.

5. The first thing Fillion thinks of when he sees himself on screen is his big nose.

6. They both agree that the most horrifying scene in the movie is the bit with Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) having sex with his wife (Banks). “Elizabeth did not have to act much in this scene,” says Gunn, “as Rooker was groping her. There he flicks her nipple.” Apparently one of the producers fought hard to have Gunn cut the nipple flick.

7. “When you make a movie in Canada you have to have a certain amount of Canadian actors,” says Gunn. “You’re really only allowed to have American actors if they’re stars.” Fillion got in as a Canadian, obviously.

8. Rooker broke his glasses off camera while doing kung-fu kicks by himself.

9. Fillion recalls Gunn telling him that “We are making a funny movie, but we’re not making a comedy.” From that point forward Fillion better understood the tonal balance he needed to aim for.

10. Air Supply’s “Every Woman in the World” was written into the script as Mr. and Mrs. Grant’s love song. Fillion asks why, and Gunn says “Frankly I find it creepy.” He explains why but then backpedals a bit saying “I like the song, I’m not saying I don’t like the song, it’s not my time of music necessarily but I really do like the song.”

11. “We had many, many vendors on this film,” Gunn says, “and some of them were great and some of them were not so great.” Digital Dimension and Image Engine get a shout out from him as two of the best.

12. The scene with Grant visiting the woman and her baby was filmed in a house in British Columbia that smelled of cat piss and other odors. Gunn recalls being stuck in there, gagging, while the rest of the crew were thankful to be outside. “But still thank you very much to the family for letting us use your house,” adds Fillion.

13. The shot of the baby in the crib teething on a tomato was originally accompanied by a bit of dialogue explaining why. Basically the mother says that tomatoes are cheaper than toys, and the infant actually softens them up thereby making them better for cooking. It was a good call cutting the explanation.

14. Several of the character names are nods to talents in the horror genre, and Gunn was originally planning on pointing them all out during the commentary. He decides though that it will be be more entertaining for viewers if he doesn’t. But then he does.

15. Don Thompson (who plays Wally in the film) loves the horror genre and grew up on Universal’s classics, and on the last day of shooting he approached Gunn with tears in his eyes to thank him for the experience of working on this one. His favorite scene to film was when Wally returns from the dead and speaks with Starla.

16. Gunn points out that while he’s hardened on gore effects and such the dog corpse that Starla finds in her basement made him “really sick.”

17. Rooker dislocated his shoulder while filming the scene where he attacks Starla and grows a floppy arm. It was a long shooting day with multiple setups, and he didn’t tell anyone until the shot was in the can.

18. The monstrous Grant who slithers across the field unaware that he’s surrounded by cops was created practically and manipulated by multiple puppeteers who were then digitally erased.

19. The barn is on property owned by Buddhist monks who love The Matrix. I assume all Buddhist monks love The Matrix, but these ones are on record about it.

20. Brenda James, who plays Grant’s victim who becomes impregnated and balloons up to ginormous extremes, suffered from claustrophobia and a meat-phobia. This made her scenes with the meat products and the ones trapped in the bloated body fairly traumatic for her.

21. Gunn is no fan of the shot where the worms cover Pardy (Fillion) and Starla. “I think the worms look really bad.”

22. Rob Zombie provides the voice of Dr. Karl on the phone.

23. Gunn had originally scripted the infection of the two little Strutemyer girls to appear partially onscreen, but he decided against showing it. “It was one of the things the producers really didn’t want me to show, especially in Europe they’re very touchy about children being killed.” I would actually disagree with that statement as there seem to be far more genre films from Europe offing kids on screen than we’ve ever gotten here ‐ The Children, Cub, Who Can Kill a Child ‐ but his next point makes a lot more sense. “I’m really glad that I didn’t do it, because the experience of these worms entering people’s mouths is quite sexual in certain ways, and it’s difficult to watch. To do it with a child would have been too much.”

24. “Kylie’s mom has to vomit on her,” says Gunn, “but we only had three of those jackets.” It took three takes, the first two of which resulted in minor dribbles from the actress’ mouth. They rehearsed and “Iris [Quinn] learned that she really had to cough to get the stuff to spurt out in the way I wanted, and then she was able to vomit appropriately on her daughter’s face.”

25. Gunn finds it necessary to explain what “bukkake” means as no one seems to get the reference. I’m not sure what it says about me that I already knew the definition.

26. Jenna Fischer, who was married to Gunn at the time, was not originally part of the cast. The actor in her role begged to be released from his contract because he had an offer to shoot a pilot, so Gunn let him go rather than have a performer on set who didn’t want to be there. Gunn swapped the character’s gender and gave her a few more lines. By the time the movie was released Fischer had become immensely popular from The Office, so she was the one who went on The Tonight Show the night before the film opened.

27. The post-car crash scene was filmed on a night that was below zero and at the mercy of a Hells Angels party across the street. One of the bikers got a ticket for crossing a barricade into the production area, and he subsequently became very angry. He began setting off fireworks to interrupt he filming because bikers can be petty people too apparently.

28. Gunn recalls that during the film’s premiere screening he spent more time watching Fillion’s mother than watching the movie. She was jumping from scares, flailing from worry and “I don’t want to put down your mother, but I think there was some urine trickling down around my feet.”

29. Gunn absolutely hates the scene where the “silly Muppet deer” attacks Pardy. Like, really hates it.

30. The pair trade impressions of each other. “Look everybody, I’m James Gunn the director,” says Fillion. “Bitch, bitch, bitch.” Gunn follows it up with his own imitation. “Hey everybody, look at me! I’m Nathan Fillion, and I’m a fucking asshole!”

31. The question about the film that Gunn gets most is people inquiring as to who sings the song at the very end. It’s called “Baby I Love You” by The Yayhoos.

32. Fillion had wanted to work with Gunn since seeing the Dawn of the Dead remake which Gunn had written. He actually auditioned for the film but was passed over. “They said they wanted someone to be more of a young, blond woman,” explains Fillion.

Best in Commentary

Final Thoughts

My assumption was correct ‐ Gunn and Fillion are funny guys. The track is highly entertaining, but they pair still manage to share anecdotes and filmmaking tidbits from the production. Fillion even ends it by saying that if Gunn’s career doesn’t end up in the crapper he’d love to work with him again. His dream came true with Gunn’s Super and a cameo in a certain Marvel film, but it’s not too late to start the rumors of Fillion playing a super-villain in Guardians of the Galaxy 2.

Check out more commentary commentary in the Commentary Commentary archives

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.