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White Dolemite

22 December 10 interview: Kristi Genovese

You probably didn’t realise that Nottingham had its very own action cinema icon walking the streets – neither did we until recently. But White Dolemite is to HoodTown what Shaft was to Harlem and alongside his buddy Video Mat (and let’s just say they share a similar relationship to that of Spiderman and Peter Parker) they have been creating some great movie posters over the last few years. The movies themselves are *ahem* not particularly easy to find though…

Who is White Dolemite?
I’m an actor known for sleaze and violence, pretty much. I’ve starred in exploitation movies since the 1970s with the director Video Mat. We both wanted to see the same kind of thing on film which was whitexploitation. Nobody at the time was making films like that and they just got more violent and rude as we went along. White Dolemite is based on the original Dolemite character (played by Rudy Ray Moore), but just a touch more gentlemanly, if that’s possible!

So what sparked the idea for whitexploitation?
We grew up with blaxploitation films and to us it was the pinnacle of cinema, but we thought there was a gap in the market. Whether it was wanted or not, we had a bloody good time doing it. When I had therapy for fear of flying, the doctor told me that I had the most overactive mind he had seen in forty years! I am now using it to dream up all these crazy-ass movie concepts!

There’s a lot of sex and violence in the movies, what attracts you to that?
First and foremost because it’s cool! What we threw into our films was everything we really loved which is guns, weapons, alcohol (particularly sangria), smoking and women. Rest assured that we won’t be doing a rom-com any time soon.

You’ve worked with many co-stars over the years... any favourites?
There have been two co-stars that I’ve worked with again and again. Firstly, I’ve got to mention Kenya Villanueva, an amazing actress from Manila. Basically, if it hadn’t have been for her encouragement, we certainly wouldn’t be where we are today. I think I fell in love her time and time again. Secondly, no matter how crazy things got Kimberley Rose Gardner was with us through thick and thin! I don’t think I could have asked any other co-star to go through what Kimmy went through. Without those two on board, White Dolemite might have ended up a vacuum cleaner salesman!

You have some really cool film posters, are there any other iconic posters out there you like?
Not so much, that’s partly the reason I make my own. Posters today can be really dull and it doesn’t seem you really have to put a lot of effort in to make a nice piece of artwork for a movie in order to sell it. It sells on the strength of the actors or the director, so I think film posters have got a little weak over the years.

Are there any artists who help stimulate ideas for your posters?
Frank Frazetta, the illustrative artist, has been inspirational along with James Gurney. And, although I know I am a total pain in his ass, I run all the new work by my very close friend Stefan Kopinski. He’s an exceptional artist, and he’s always on hand to help me “up” the gore levels! But the one thing I’d never do is directly rip people off. I’ve been asked in the past if I can stick a head on Luke Skywalker’s body and make a Star Wars poster but it’s already been done. The thing with the original blaxploitation posters though is that nobody ever really knew who the artists were. But I do keep the layout ideas in mind.

What’s your favourite movie tagline?
The original Alien tagline was cool, “In space no one can hear you scream.” If this had changed into a White Dolemite movie it would be more along the lines of “In bed no one can hear you scream.” I spend so much time thinking of my own taglines. A particular favourite is “We live just to make sure you die” on the blood-drenched poster with Samurai swords.

If Richard Roundtree and Fred ‘the hammer’ Williamson had a real life fight who would win?
Fred Williamson would definitely win. He was a real man and he could hammer your ass! And he kicks vampire ass! If it was between Williamson and White Dolemite, he would probably kick my ass too, but I’d like to see that fight go down.

Tell us about your next exhibition...
It’s hopefully going to be quite an exciting one this time round and we’ve got a few surprises in store. Hopefully we’ll be premiering the first White Dolemite video and we’ve got guest artists, from fashion designers, cartoon artists and illustrators doing White Dolemite pieces from their perspective. Every bloke that I have starred with has been cut out and it will be called One White Stand, just White Dolemite and lots of women. But the men will be back in the next one, and that will be more brutal with lots of broken bones and fighting. We have a few venues in mind but as the work is not child friendly at all we’re not sure where it will be yet but keep your eyes peeled.

You say your exhibitions are crazy, sexy and dangerous, so what can we expect?
I might get a couple of bands involved just to stir the crowd up a bit. Lots of models will be there, hopefully in costume if I can persuade them. But it’s when the sangria starts flowing that it can start to get a bit messy. There will be White Dolemite cocktails on offer and that could be a little bit crazy too.

Where do you get all your sexy women from?
The first exhibition was a real struggle, it was basically me wandering around asking people if they wanted to be in a poster and people couldn’t really grasp the concept. After the first exhibition, people actually started asking to star in the posters which was really quite flattering! Then I got in touch with a couple of professional models who surprisingly said yes. Sometimes people will be perfect. I met this girl last week and I instantly dropped her into a seventies Italian-themed poster a little like Rebel Without A Cause, with scooters tearing up the place. I’ve got a feeling that if that movie goes ahead, it’s going to be called Death Without A Cause.

Are there any modern-day film stars that you look up to?
Vincent Cassel is an inspiration definitely. Eric Bana, but solely on the strength of Chopper and Bruce Campbell of course. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for ‘The Chin’ But I’ll give anything a try so everything from Brad Pitt to independents. At the moment I’m really enjoying guys like Steve Carrell, Michael Cera and Seth Rogen, who are like a new wave of independent actors with studio budgets. It’s weird what’s going on in Hollywood right now, but it’s also really interesting and exciting.

What’s been the best film you’ve seen recently?
I really liked District 9 because it took a really interesting alien genre and took it into a place where it would not ordinarily make sense, in Johannesburg. It was stunning and I hope they do not ruin it by bringing out a second one. Most recently though, Gaspar Noe’s Enter The Void. That is one insanely crazy-ass movie. I loved it! I’m also utterly charmed by Up and Wall-E.

What’s in the pipeline for the next few months?
Video Mat and I will hopefully film the trailer for Enter The Bastards but it’s going to be very difficult on a low budget. There are lots of special effects and every scene is dripping with blood but we’ll give it a go. I will carry on producing the posters but right now I am concentrating on the next exhibition.

So, in all seriousness, are you ever actually going to make these films?
That would be awesome but making films in this country at the moment is an absolute nightmare. If somebody else was interested in taking my idea I would probably say yes but I would want a hand in it creatively. I’ve got quite precious about it, it’s my baby which I’ve been working on for two years and now it’s almost growing on its own now, which is really cool. What would really concern me is if someone took the concept away and watered it down, whereas if I had the opportunity to make the film I would make it as messed up as possible and it would definitely end up nasty. Nothing less than a XX rating would be good enough.

Find out more about White Dolemite and Video Mat


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