Interview with Catherine Mary Stewart:
Iconic 80's Teen Movie Queen & Star of
Weekend At Bernie's, The Last Starfighter,
Night of the Comet and tons more!
by Lee Sobel (8/16/20)
If you went to the movies in the decade of MTV, big hair and Pac-Man, you saw Canadian actress Catherine Mary Stewart everywhere: THE LAST STARFIGHTER (1984), NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984), WORLD GONE WILD (1987) and WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S (1989). And she was busy on the small-screen too, appearing in everything from soap operas to Knight Rider. One of her earliest movies was THE APPLE (1980), a futuristic musical disaster written and directed by Menahem Golan that is discussed in the highly recommended documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films. She has worked steadily as an actress ever since, and thanks to the cult status of so many movies she made back then, Catherine Mary Stewart is as as much a symbol of the 80's as Rubik's cube and acid wash jeans.
Lee Sobel: One of your earliest movies was THE APPLE directed by Menahem Golan. A sci-fi musical comedy, the movie is certainly ambitious. What went wrong with the movie, what was it like making it and what are your feelings about it?
Catherine Mary Stewart: THE APPLE was my very first movie! I was living in London, England studying at a performing arts school, focusing on dance. I auditioned for THE APPLE as a dancer. The director spotted me and decided I was right for the lead role so he asked me to read for it. I just went along with the whole thing, not really knowing what I was doing. Before I knew it I was cast. Thus, my journey as an actor began.
With Kelli Maroney in Night of the Comet
The story itself was pretty outlandish. It was a futuristic rock musical about the corruption of the music industry and government, loosely based on an Adam and Eve theme. At that time rock musicals were very popular in the US including “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Grease,” and “Saturday Night Fever.” The producers were hoping to break into the US market with this movie. It just didn’t hit the mark. I have no regrets doing that movie. I learned a lot and it got me into the business. It’s become like a cult film attracting audiences like “Rocky Horror" with midnight showings all over the country and people dressing up and singing along with the movie.
Rocking out in her first movie, The Apple
Lee Sobel: What kinds of fun memories of childhood do you recall that may have impacted on your choice of an acting career?
Catherine Mary Stewart: Well, in my home my two older brothers and I were never shy about expressing ourselves. When I had friends over they were always taken aback by the loud, barreling voices of my brothers yodeling out the latest Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young or Bob Marley or Bob Dylan song! I was always surprised at their reaction. Aren’t all families this way? I think it’s safe to say that our family
was and is pretty animated. We are loud, expressive and full to the brim with inside jokes. However, when my mother suggested I take acting class in middle school I was aghast! As animated as I was in the privacy of my own home or with close friends, I was skinny, awkward, bespectacled and painfully shy. My mom, however, wouldn’t back down and she convinced me to try it. As petrified as I was in the first few classes, I came to realize what it meant to lose yourself in a character and be acknowledged positively for it. So, that was the beginning of my acting career...
The next thing she laid on me was dance class. What?! Are you kidding??!! NO WAY!!!! I had suffered through a couple of years of ballet when I was 6 or 7 years old. I hated how slow it seemed, the classical music being pounded out on an out of tune piano by some cranky old person, and boy everything you did was so precise! BORING! Well, years later my mum had read about someone offering jazz class and it would be “a lot more fun”. Once again she somehow convinced me to go to just one class to see how I liked it. I got into the class, buried myself somewhere in the back and determined that I was going to just get through it so I would never have to do THAT again. The next thing I know “Earth Wind and Fire” is funkin’ away on a record player full blast. The teacher started getting down to the disco beat and
asked us to follow. This was different. I found myself inspired and letting loose! Before I knew what was happening, she called me to the front of the class so people could see how to do the moves! HUH!!?? So, that was the beginning of my dance career…
I continued acting in high school but I focused on dance. I was passionate about it. We formed a dance company, performed all over Canada and even in Europe and the Middle East. After I graduated from high school, I studied at a performing arts school in London, England where I was reintroduced to acting, singing, and dance of every form. I even found that I liked ballet after all.
With Jon Cryer in Dudes
The Last Starfigher
It was in London that I auditioned as a dancer for THE APPLE and ended up in the lead role as an actor. Thus, my dance career ended and my acting career began.
Lee Sobel: In your 20's you made many movies of the 80's that are considered teen classics. Was the 80's a fun time for you? What kinds of things from that time stand out in your memory?
Catherine Mary Stewart: OMG! The 80’s were the BEST!!! I loved literally everything about the 80’s. I loved the outrageous hair, makeup, clothes, everything. I felt like I could shed my mousy, nerdy, little girl persona and fly!
The first movie I did in L.A. was THE LAST STARFIGHTER. I was so lucky to be in that movie. It was truly a labor of love and it felt that way on the set. Lance Guest, who played “Alex,” and I became great friends, Nick Castle the director was so sweet and generous. This was his baby and he wanted it to be the best it could be. He really set the tone on the set. It was a wonderful experience. I’m still in touch with Nick as well. I’m still in touch with many of those involved with that movie, which is a real sign of what a great experience it was.
Having said that, every project I did was glorious to me. I did NIGHT OF THE COMET right after THE LAST STARFIGHTER and MISCHIEF (1985) right after that. Honestly, they were all wonderful experiences and again I have stayed in touch with the directors and cast alike! Wonderful memories! The 80’s were very good to me work-wise and I’m grateful everyday!
Weekend at Bernie's
Lee Sobel: Please tell me one funny memory about the following movies you were in:
The Last Starfighter:
Catherine Mary Stewart: When we were in the back of Jack’s truck and Lance Guest was the Beta Unit at that point it was a “pickup shot,” meaning the main shoot was done but they felt they needed another scene. My hair had grown out and Lance had a WIG on!! He was also sick as a dog. If you look closely you can tell. It turned out to be a hilarious scene but the situation was pretty funny. We also did another couple of pickup shots at the studio. That’s where they shot Lance spinning around in a frame that would later become the “Death Blossom.” It was hilarious watching him spin seemingly out of control! I don’t think he enjoyed it very much. Apparently the funniest things to me were at Lance’s expense!
Night of the Comet:
When I’m in the movie theater at the beginning of the movie playing the video game and Mel tells me to clean the theater, I was supposed to look annoyed but I couldn’t keep a straight face! The actor, Stanley Brock, cracked me up with his delivery. They decided to keep it in because my reaction was authentic.
Weekend at Bernie’s:
The scene where Richard, played by Jonathan Silverman, and I are exploring the lighthouse is another case where I couldn’t stop cracking up! It was all essentially improvised after he fell down the stairs. The director, Ted Kotcheff, loved my laugh. I do not have trouble laughing!
Lee Sobel: You made a couple of post apocalyptic movies in the 80's and that did seem to be a time when people feared that a nuclear war could occur. The times we are living in now seem even more apocalyptic. What do you think of "end of the world" movies and why do you think people like watching them?
Night of the Comet
World Gone Wild
Catherine Mary Stewart: I LOVE end of the world, apocalyptic movies. I find them fascinating. For me it’s like a psychological exploration. How would people react if they knew the end of the world was inevitable? It’s so cool to watch different interpretations of what might happen, in different movies. One of my favorite movies is “Melancholia." It’s terribly dark and depressing, but to me it’s such an interesting unique take, like a series of paintings from the period of Romanticism in the 1800’s. I love how the ending is so innocent in contrast to the violence and catastrophic destruction of the Earth.
Lee Sobel: You've been in a number of movies that one could describe as "cult films." Do you like these kinds of movies?
Catherine Mary Stewart: I’m not exactly sure which movies you’re referring to, or their genre, but I’m proud to be a part of all the movies I’ve been in. I like a huge variety of movies, from foreign films with subtitles to blockbuster American films. I particularly like character driven stories that I can immerse myself in and escape into. I love that lingering feeling after a movie is over and you still feel like you’re in it.
Lee Sobel: Did you turn any movies down that you later wished you had made?
Catherine Mary Stewart: Probably. I know at one point I was turning down a lot of TV because at that time if you were doing movies you weren’t supposed to do TV. That I regret. I was asked to be Michael J. Fox’s girlfriend on “Family Ties”! That would’ve been very cool, in retrospect!!
Lee Sobel: What are some of the weird/funny things that have happened to you in show biz?
Catherine Mary Stewart: I had a very well known actor/director decide that he liked me. I had a small role in his film and of course it seemed like a huge compliment that he was paying attention to me. During the shoot he tried to impress me by letting me stand with him behind the camera while a big shot was about to take place. It had to be done in one take because of the enormity of it. There were cameras everywhere. So they finally had it ready to go and as they rolled the cameras this guy dragged me right in front of one of the cameras to get a better view. I ruined the shot for that particular camera. When he realized what he had done he took off. I was left to defend myself to a very angry camera operator! So embarrassing. That marked the end of my relationship with that famous fella.
Weekend at Bernie's
Lee Sobel: Have you had any weird experiences with fans?
Catherine Mary Stewart: I find my fans to be absolutely the best!! They are polite and respectful and know more about the stuff I’ve been in than I do! I learn a lot from them. I’ve had so many wonderful experiences meeting fans. An example that I’ll never forget is a grown up brother and sister came to a convention that I was at with Kelli Maroney who played “Samantha” in NIGHT OF THE COMET. They presented us with a little stick figure cartoon book that they had done as children of the entire story of NIGHT OF THE COMET. They told me that when they were kids, their mom worked so after school, until she got home, they would watch NIGHT OF THE COMET over and over again as a sort of babysitter. They knew it all by heart and together they put this little book together. As I said, they were grown when we met them but they had kept this little homemade book for all those years and they wondered if we could sign it. I was so touched. It was wonderful!!!