Brian Trenchard-Smith has been a director for 40 years and has made around the same amount of movies, from 1975’s George Lazenby-featuring action film The Man from Hong Kong through 1986’s cult film Dead End Drive-In to last year’s straight-to-DVD thriller Absolute Deception, which starred Cuba Gooding Jr. “I’ve never met a green-light I didn’t like,” chuckles the urbane auteur.
Trenchard-Smith is one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite filmmakers and a frequent contributor to Joe Dante’s fantastic Trailers from Hell website, alongside such fellow TFH “gurus” as Guillermo del Toro, Edgar Wright, and John Landis, and History of Violence scriptwriter Josh Olson. He also gave Nicole Kidman one of her early big breaks by casting the then just 15-year-old actress in the 1983 children’s film BMX Bandits. But the director’s films, which also include 1982’s notoriously violent Turkey Shoot and two very tongue-in-cheek entries in the Leprechaun franchise, have tended to dwell in the arena of the low budget B-movie. As a result, Trenchard-Smith has rarely gotten his auteurial mitts on big-name stars.
“Obviously in some respects my horror-comedies or my genre parodies work against me for that,” he admits. “Because an agent has to say to an actor, ‘You have to trust the director from Leprechaun: In Space. But I like to think of myself as a multi-generic filmmaker. I think I’m very trustworthy in any genre. The point is, I have a brain.”
One person who evidently agreed with that self-assessment? John Cusack. Trenchard-Smith’s new comedy-thriller Drive Hard stars the Say Anything actor as a criminal who hijacks a race car driver-turned-driving instructor played by Thomas Jane so he can be his getaway driver in a $9 million heist. “I have the skill set to work with the best actors in the world and I consider John Cusack and Thomas Jane to be in that category,” says the director. “They are committed to excellence and that’s a wonderful thing to have at your disposal.”
Trenchard-Smith has hopes Drive Hard, which arrives in cinemas on October 3, will lead to his directing movies of a more high-brow nature than those for which he is best known. “I’m proud of my guilty pleasures but I’ve made some good films as well and I believe Drive Hard is a good film,” he says. “By Hollywood standards, it has a pretty low budget, but it doesn’t look like it. Maybe people will say, ‘Oh, he’s not just a dumb schlock journeyman.’ I’d like to do a film as worthy as 12 Years a Slave or as engrossing as American Hustle. ‘Bring it on!’ I say. Give me a deep and meaningful drama—and there won’t be any leprechauns in it.”
You can check out exclusive stills from Drive Hard below as well as a selection of trailers from Trenchard-Smith’s best known films—including a memorably gruesome clip for Turkey Shoot—and some of his Trailers From Hell commentaries.