The movie poster for ‘Scumbag,’ a film by Mars Roberge.
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with director Mars Roberge about his upcoming film, Scumbag. Our more cinematically inclined Dangerous Minds readers may recall that Roberge produced and directed the highly accoladed 2013 documentary on fashion designer/stylist/retailer Patricia Field The Little House that Could. Roberge spend a decade of his life working in Field’s New York boutique and the film was praised by the LGBTQ community for the attention it drew to the safe haven Field cultivated for club kids, drag queens, transsexuals, teens and twenty-somethings who were trying to figure who they really were.
Scumbag has a 200+ member cast—most of them culled from the vast world of punk rock and counterculture creatives that Roberge brought together for the film. Among them are Angelo Moore of Fishbone, Kid Congo Powers (Gun Club and The Cramps), underground filmmaker Nick Zedd and other members from bands like Dead Kennedys, Crass, D Generation (our own Howie Pyro) and the Germs, just to name a few. Reflective of his own life experiences, Scumbag tells the tale of a DJ whose day gig has him cavorting with drug addicts, mental patients, ex-cons and murderers. Which makes it sound precisely like the kind of film readers of Dangerous Minds will dig. I spoke with Roberge over email last week about Scumbag.
You’ve been a DJ for much of your life and the main character in Scumbag is a DJ. How much of your life story is told in the film?
Mars Roberge: 99% of it. Let’s just say I never smoked crack but pretty much everything else happened. All the actors look like the actual people except Princess Frank (the musician who plays the lead character of “Phil” in Scumbag) doesn’t look like me. When people ask why I chose him it’s because he’s cool and is living my old life. I think he was the first guy I ever met in LA, he performed at a Red Zebra club kid party. Seconds afterwards invited me and my ex-wife to an orgy at his house. We didn’t go but he did leave such an impression on me that I immediately thought of him when I needed the main star. He did great job too. Note to all actors out there: if you want a lead role, invite directors to orgies.
I understand Ron Jeremy basically showed up on the set and ended up getting an impromptu role in Scumbag that you came up with on the fly. As this kind of stuff never happens to me, I must know more about this seemingly random event.
Mars Roberge: There was an actor who will remain nameless who tried to blackmail me, so I fired him and had to reshoot 2/3 of the movie. The same guy called Ron to my set in Burbank at three in the morning. I’m sure he was doing it just to impress the girls but in either case, here I am with Ron walking around. Of course with all the selfies going off, it was pushing our production back a few hours where I had to say “you’re either in the film or not,” and he did it.
Dangerous Minds: You’ve managed to assemble a pretty fantastic cast that includes members of punk and counterculture heroes. You also had Jim Sclavunos (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds/Grinderman collaborator) contribute to the soundtrack. How big of a role does music play in Scumbag?
Mars Roberge: For me, as a filmmaker, DJ, and ex-guitarist from several bands, music plays EVERYTHING for me. I usually have the entire soundtrack picked out before I even start making the movie because all my scenes are influenced by certain songs. I laugh (in my head) when a million people approach me to give me music or want to be my composer because I’m like, I spent 26 years of my life as a DJ where music is everything to me, that I know what I want long before the filming happens. There are scenes in the movie that I had to break straight out into music videos. This caused some tension with a couple crew members who were like “you can’t do that, it’s not a musical.” Which led me to invent a new genre which I call “Rocktopia” just so I could do what I want. I figured if you can’t beat them, start a revolution.
Rumor is that you’re already planning a sequel to Scumbag and even a television series. Does this mean that we might someday see Nick Zedd, Ron Jeremy and Angelo Moore (Fishbone) and some of the other counterculture luminaries from Scumbag reprising their roles?
Mars Roberge: Absolutely! When actors join the Mars family, they have gigs for life—and I feel like I especially owe anyone who trusted me with their lives. I jokingly say “I just made you famous, now let me make you rich!”
I read that Stiv Bators was actually your babysitter when you were a kid growing up in Toronto. I know your sister was friends with the Dead Boys—any amusing “don’t tell Mom the babysitter’s a punk” mishaps you’d be willing to share with our readers?
Mars Roberge: It’s funny as my older sibling partied a lot back in her younger days so I find I’m the one reminding her of all the stories because I was there. Like I was really into the 1979 film The Warriors as a kid and wanted a leather jacket (also like the Fonz or the cool leather daddy from the Village People), plus I wanted a spiked wristband. My sister’s Ziggy Stardust-looking ex-husband got me a wristband all right—a studded cock ring that I proudly wore on my wrist all through public school.
You’ve been an advocate for the LGBTQ community as well as a self-described activist for most of your life. Given the current state of affairs in the U.S., do you have any advice for people, especially young people, that are struggling with how best they can support people and groups that have been marginalized and targeted by the new administration?
Mars Roberge: Treat others like you want to be treated, with the same respect, especially if you don’t understand it and find a place where you can be yourself. When I landed at Patricia Field’s I walked up to Amanda Lepore and said “I’m Die J! Mars, undead DJ, Canadian Graver and anti-Christ of Dance Music.” She smiled said “Hello, I’m Amanda Lepore, the #1 transexual in the world, nice to meet you.” She then kissed my cheek and we have been friends ever since. In fact, she is hosting Scumbag‘s North American premiere’s after party at Webster Hall on March 18th at midnight. That one moment I described is how I realized you should live your life. Be accepted or else find another group immediately because there is nothing wrong with you.
Scumbag will make its debut at the Rotterdam International Film Festival on February 3rd. North American premieres are set for the Queens World Film Festival in March and the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival in April.
The official trailer for the 2017 film, ‘Scumbag.’
Many thanks to Bryen Dunn for his help with this post.