Written by / 12/17/2012 / 1 Comment / , , ,

REVISITING CAMP W/ KRISTINE DEBELL: A 'MEATBALLS' INTERVIEW

Kristine Debell as A.L. from MEATBALLS
In MEATBALLS, actress KRISTINE DeBELL played a camp counselor in a classic movie that's lived on for many years thanks not only to Bill Murray’s comic brilliance but the talented young cast, adding their own energy, warmth, and humor...

Kristine DeBell as A.L.
This is Bill Murray’s first big film following SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE… How did you get involved in this movie?

Well at the time I was auditioning like crazy. I’d just done a whole bunch of television in ’78 and it was just another audition. It was a summer camp movie, and I went to the audition and I remember getting the part. And I didn’t… I guess I was watching SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE but I don’t think I knew it was Bill Murray till we got to Canada.

And there were two of us that were flown from Los Angeles: myself and Todd Hoffman, who played “Wheels,” my boyfriend in the film. And we met Bill there. And the rest of the cast was Canadian. And it was just a lot of fun. Seriously, it was one of the most… I would say it was the most fun I had on any film set.

Was Bill Murray as funny in real life as his character?

Kristine behind Bill
Oh my gosh, yeah. I told people over the years… Bill, at that time, was basically playing himself. I mean he’s gone on to have an amazing career. But he was himself. That’s what got him on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and that was who he was then. He was a stitch; it was so much fun. And it was Ivan Reitman’s directorial debut as well. It was his first time and he was very open.

That scene where Fink was under the cabin… And that idea of all the girls… Of the girl’s heads popping out… that was my idea. And Bill brought that kind of soul – it was very improvisational. It was my first experience with that. And as for Ivan… obviously I didn’t do any other films with him, so I don’t know if his style’s changed. But because it was his first time, and he had this talented actor, it was like: “Okay, well what do you think? Let’s just try this.”

Sneaking Around Camp
And it was freezing cold there, because it was in the fall, and it was at a real summer camp outside of Toronto in some little town in the mountains somewhere. But I know Toronto was the nearest big city. And it was freezing. And here we are doing swimming scenes, and boat scenes, like it was summer.

And I was thinking about it the other day. And everyone used to comment, “Oh my God. You had that sexy, raspy voice.” And I had a wicked cold. I almost had laryngitis when I did the scene where I don’t go to the big dance everyone’s prepping for. And I stay in my cabin, which is apropos since I’m really sick.

Did you improvise the scene where the blond girl reads the romance novel?

Honesty, I don’t even remember the script. And I think I probably have it upstairs, somewhere saved in the attic. But we filmed it and we went crazy, sort of creeping around, and it was all adlibbed. And that’s sort of what Bill brought to the project. And Ivan was like, “Cool, okay.” So with that sensibility we were all coming up with ideas and, “Let’s film it like this.” Or whatever came to your mind: you just did it. We played with it.

Pantsing Spaz
I think the spontaneity lends itself to the freedom of being at camp…

What’s interesting is I grew up in the country so I was not a vet summer camper. I remember going to art camp, or if you had an interest, a sport camp. But so many of my friends, later on, grew up in cities. So that was part of your life. And I think Ivan… The new movie he made with Natalie Portman… The very beginning is the two of them at summer camp. So I think that he was a summer camp kid. And I meet people that were at camp and saw the movie. Or they’d been to summer camp their entire lives. And I don’t know – there had obviously been other films about it, but… It really just touched a chord with everyone.

The great A.L.
Did your character “A.L.” have a name or just initials?

No, there wasn’t a name. I used to joke, just call me “Alice Louise.” It was A.L. Obviously it was, whatever… They created that name, and it was to be short for something, and I just said, “Call me Alice Louise.”

You have an amazing laugh in this movie... I love it...

Oh thank you. It’s so funny because I grew up in a big family. I have four sisters, and actually my cousins. We have very close cousins; my mom’s sister. And all the girls, we all have the same laugh. We have been to parties and stuff, and all of the sudden we… [Laughs] You know that big open mouth laugh, and it would be like, Oh my God. My cousin Mary, my cousin Debbie… Myself… My sister Georgia… It was like yeah, that was me!

Fireside Smiling
Bill Murray delivers two great monologues: the campfire and the famous, “It just doesn’t matter” scene… Were these completely improvised?

Absolutely. He just has an idea. And he sits around and starts. And that’s totally him. That’s improvisation. That’s exactly what it was. It’s impromptu fabulous humor. He was just funny. And “It Just Doesn’t Matter"... It’s like the line in NETWORK. And they just used that recently in… There was a news item on MSNBC… It was hysterical. They were saying, “It just doesn’t matter” on a political thing... It was great... And where we met, at the autograph show – it was so wonderful. You don’t realize till you do that: how many people came up to me and said, “That movie has such an effect on my life... And I have chosen my lifetime friends… Whether they like that movie or not.” And I didn’t know that. And obviously I get fan letters, but I didn’t know it had that big of an impact on people... Even from the middle of the country they had me autograph a copy of MEATBALLS. And it’s like, wow! -- Kristine DeBell

NOW HERE'S AN ARCHIVED REVIEW OF MEATBALLS BY YOURS TRULY: Before Bill Murray and director Ivan Reitman joined the army or battled ghosts, they spent a summer at the underdog arsenal, Camp North Star. 

Signed by Kristine
Made during his last season on SNL, this is Murray’s ANIMAL HOUSE, but here he’s both Bluto (the party hound) and Otter (the charmer) at the same time: playing "Tripper," a lovable slob who heads up the C.I.T.’s – Counselor in Training... youngsters making up the heart of the film much like the caddies in co-writer Harold Ramis's CADDYSHACK...

These include mostly Canadian actors like Jack Blum and Keith Knight as Spaz and Fink, both epitomizing a geek and a slob and possibly the greatest duo ever. 

1979 Score: ****
While two young American actors, Kristine DeBell nd Todd Hoffman, help fill the young-lover aspect – teenagers reminiscent of people we grew up with (not to forget Matt Craven, who'd go onto many other projects). 

And that’s the charm of this film – these kids are the real deal: but it’s Murray’s performance that keeps everyone in check. And while Tripper's bond with troubled camper Chris Makepeace is sweet, and gives Bill a chance to really act, the scenes go on a bit too long. But no matter, this is a classic comedy that’s much more than goofing off – and there's tons of that too: only here it all means something.

A double DeBell: that's one of her modelling shots in the background
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1 comment:

  1. Cool interview!

    Another classic from when we were kids. I love this movie, I love Bill Murray. Just one of those movies that when you even hear the name of it, you get this warm feeling all throughout your body thinking, "Man, I love that movie. Why haven't I watched it in years? I need to dig it up and watch it right now!"

    A favorite comedy as a youngster growing up.

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