“I like horror movies, that’s all I really wanted to do,” said filmmaker turned Millionaire Matchmaker Destin Pfaff when SuicideGirls first spoke to him just over a year ago. “I was so against getting sidetracked. And she sidetracked me – magically,” he said of his reality TV star boss, Patti Stanger. “I love matchmaking, and will always do it,” Pfaff adds, however, 2011 is the year he gets his film career seriously back on track.
His first full-length feature film, Sushi Girl, has just gone into production. Co-written and produced by Pfaff, the title of the film refers to the female (played by newcomer Cortney Palm) that serves as the centerpiece of a reunion dinner for members of a gang who we’re involved in an ill-fated diamond heist.
The cast features an eclectic and surprising mix of names, which includes Mark Hamill, a.k.a. Luke Skywalker from Star Wars, Noah Hathaway, who played Atreyu in Neverending Story, and Sonny Chiba, whose breakout role was that of Takuma Tsurugi in the martial arts classic, The Street Fighter.
Pfaff was kind enough to invite SuicideGirls onto the Universal Studios set to meet the cast and get a behind-the-scenes perspective on the action. But first we stopped by his trailer for a quick chat about how Sushi Girl came to be on Pfaff’s menu.
SuicideGirls: Where did the idea for the script come from?
Destin Pfaff: It was actually kind of a drunken idea.
SG: The best ideas are.
DP: The best ideas come from Jack Daniels. It came from this idea that what if all these random gang bosses – we’re talking an Italian mafia boss, a Crips or Bloods-type head gang member, and a head of Yakuza or something like that – all had dinner together.
DP: Part of the idea of having this dinner together was to get rid of each other. That kind of morphed into [the idea that] if these garish bad guys were to eat dinner together, how would they eat dinner? Well, off of a naked woman. It’s all about the aesthetics, it’s all about presentation…
SG: And the machismo.
DP: Exactly. Then that just sparked a whole other idea which is like – if you’re this kind of guy that’s just staring at this attractive woman and not even thinking about what she’s thinking about, not even thinking about her personality, not thinking about anything about her, just like, “Oh, look at that hot piece of ass I’m going to eat off of,” what’s under those layers and what kind of plan or idea does she have, and what does she think about you? That kind of morphed into this whole idea about Sushi Girl.
SG: So you wrote the script yourself.
DP: I wrote the script along with my writing partner Kern Saxton who’s directing the feature.
SG: How long did it take from writing the script to being here today, which is day four of production?
DP: We wrote the script about a year and a half ago, two years ago. We had a false start in production a year ago, unfortunately the plug got pulled about a week before we started.
DP: But we’re better for it. We got a better cast. The real core cast of people that we really wanted – Tony Todd, Andy Mackenzie, Jimmy Duval, Cortney Palm – they stuck around through thick and thin for us, and then we were able to loop in some surprising actors like Sonny Chiba and Mark Hamill.
SG: Those are two huge and very interesting names to have. How did that come about?
DP: Sonny Chiba, the producers and I, Kern, Suren Seron and Neal Fischer [who collectively make up Assembly Line LLC], met through a friend of ours named Tommy. Sonny had come to talk to us about some film projects and about doing some stuff together. We mentioned Sushi Girl, and that this could be our tip toe into bigger and better things. He read the script and he loved it, loved the idea of it, and we flew him all the way from Japan to come do our movie. Similar story with Mark Hamill. A friend of a friend, a couple of agent conversations and enough phone calls to make anyone go crazy until he actually read the script. Once he did, we had him…
Noah Hathaway’s story is my favorite because we were looking for one of our leads, Fish, and completely randomly, one of our producers, Suren, Facebooked Noah and just said, “Hey we’re big fans. What are you doing? You should really be in our movie,” not even thinking we’d have a response. The next day we had a response, sent him a script, talked to him via Skype. He’s in Amsterdam, he’s a tattoo artist now. It just happened to be that that email hit him the day after he told his wife he wanted to come back to LA to start acting again, to come to pilot season and all that. It was just serendipitous. He read for us. We did an audition via Skype from Amsterdam, and he killed it. He nailed it. He flew in the next day.
SG: After Sonny signed on to do the movie, did you change any of the script to allow for some martial arts scenes?
DP: I can’t give too much away about the Sonny character because it’s kind of a mysterious, very dangerous sushi chef that he’s playing. But once we landed Sonny Chiba, there were definitely some line changes and movement changes – we wanted to use him so badly, any way we could.
SG: Tell me about your sushi girl.
DP: Cortney Palm is our sushi girl. She is an up and coming young actress. This is her first major role in a motion picture, and she’s spectacular.
SG: How did you find this amazing location?
DP: Fung Lum’s is a character in itself. It’s a dilapidated Chinese restaurant on the Universal Studios lot. My understanding was it was like this big deal thing in the late ’80s or early ’90s…and then some bad things were found out about it. You can look on the internet. Let’s just say the owners weren’t the most honest of people. So they shut it down, and it was on the Universal lot so Universal took ownership of it. They started filming a couple of movies here, movies like Balls of Fury and 80 billion episodes of CSI, and now us.
SG: Have you actually got a sushi chef onsite?
DP: We do. He’s here today too. He is awesome!
SG: What’s the fish line in the budget?
DP: The fish line is gold fish that we can go to the nearest store to get and hopefully nobody knows the difference…Don’t tell anybody, we just make it look really pretty. It’s amazing what you can do with airbrushing.
SG: This is day four of the shoot. After nearly a month spent working with sushi, are you going to actually want to sit down and eat the stuff ever again?
DP: Anytime I can eat sushi off of a naked girl, I will.
SG: Sonny’s the sushi chef in your movie. What was your all time favorite film of his?
DP: I’ll be old school and say Street Fighter, hands down. I’ve watched Street Fighter probably more than I’ve watched any other film that I own. I love Street Fighter. Sonny Chiba is, as Quentin Tarentino says, “Not a good guy, not a bad guy, but a bad ass motherfucker.” And he is. In real life, he really is. There’s also a little known Sonny Chiba movie called Bear Fighter where he actually fights a bear. That’s another fun one.
SG: Did you ever do martial arts?
DP: When I was kid I took Taekwondo. I sucked. I’m the worst fighter ever.
SG: So this is why you have to write and direct martial arts movies.
DP: I have to live vicariously through all of my actors.
SG: If you’re using your movies to live your life vicariously, what would the next movie be?
DP: It would be a lesbian astronaut movie.
SG: The things that you could do with lesbians in zero gravity is kind of awesome.
DP: I’m telling you..Sushi Girl 2 in space with lesbians.
SG: You have to start work on that script immediately.
DP: Half way through already.