Interview: Bobcat Goldthwait at the 2014 Chicago Critics Film Festival

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CHICAGO – The legend of Bigfoot, the half ape and half human that had its heyday in the 1970s, is kept alive gratefully in the new film “Willow Creek,” directed by comedian and filmmaker Bobcat Goldthwait. The stand-up comic icon was in Chicago last week to present his film at the 2014 Chicago Critics Film Festival.

“Willow Creek” is done in the style of “found video footage,” and involves a couple (Bryce Johnson and Alexis Gilmore) who are seeking the remote area in California where the famous film of Bigfoot was shot in 1967 by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin. As events surrounding their journey get stranger and stranger, the pair find that they bit off more than they can chew.

Bobcat Goldthwait
Bobcat Goldthwait Mugs it Up at the Chicago Critics Film Festival, May 14th, 2014
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for

The horror comedy theme is par for the filmmaking course of Bobcat Goldthwait. He was born in Syracuse, New York, and has performed as a comedian professionally from the age of 15. Right out of high school he formed a comedy group with classmate Tom Kenny – the eventual voice of Spongebob Squarepants – and acquired the nickname Bobcat. After two well-received stand-up comedy TV specials, he starred in movies (the “Police Academy” series, “Scrooged”), took on TV directing (“Jimmy Kimmel Live!”) and made his film directing debut with “Shakes the Clown” (1992). Shakes received one of the most famous taglines in film criticism history, when Betsy Sherman of the Boston Globe called it “the ‘Citizen Kane’ of alcoholic clown movies.”

Since “Shakes the Clown,” Goldthwait has directed several well-received films, including “World’s Greatest Dad” (2009) and “God Bless America” (2011). caught up with him on the Red Carpet at the 2014 Chicago Critics Film Festival. We both have the concept of ‘Bigfoot mania’ from the 1970s, but what was your direct inspiration for reviving it in ‘Willow Creek’?

Bobcat Goldthwait: It was another 1970s film, ‘The Legend of Boggy Creek,’ that was a big influence on my film and the documentary “Grizzly Man,’ which has the same theme of being blind to danger because of obsessions – the Bigfoot fan dragging his girlfriend out into the woods, and bad things happen to him. You had quite a bit of time between ‘Shakes the Clown’ and your next film, and you recently said you’re about to curtail your stand-up career to concentrate on filmmaking, correct?

Goldthwait: No, I still do stand-up, because it affords me my luxurious lifestyle. [laughs] I do stand-up so I can keep making these small movies. I guess my question is then, why was there such a long layoff between films?

Goldthwait: It wasn’t that I didn’t want to make movies, but it wasn’t working out because I was trying to do through it the studio system. Luckily, Jimmy Kimmel hired me to direct his TV show. During a two week break, I picked up filmmaking again and shot a short called ‘Sleeping Dogs Lie.’ That got me back on the path for directing films. Finally, ‘Shakes the Clown’ received one of the most famous reviews in movie history, when it was called “the ‘Citizen Kane’ of alcoholic clown movies.” If someone were to make a ‘Citizen Kane’ style movie of your life, who or what would be your ‘Rosebud’?

Goldthwait: This will sound self-promoting, but the Patterson-Gimlin film of Bigfoot – and I only had the still pictures from it – is something I studied as a kid. I always kept that in the back of my mind.

“Willow Creek” will play the Seattle International Film Festival on May 23rd, 2014. Featuring Bryce Johnson and Alexis Gilmore. Written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. Not yet rated. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2014 Patrick McDonald,

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