Catherine Mary Stewart starred in two of the memorable films of 1984.
In Nick Castle's THE LAST STARFIGHTER, released in July, she played the girlfriend of intergalactic warrior Lance Guest. Recruited by Robert Preston through a video game, he headed to the stars to save the galaxy. A favorite of many, including myself, the film was recently released in a 25th Anniversary edition on DVD and Blu-Ray.
November saw the release of NIGHT OF THE COMET. This low budget end of the world zombie comedy is a film that holds up just as well today as it did 25 years ago. Funny, suspenseful, Catherine Mary Stewart gives a wonderful performance.
My favorite moment of hers from the year, in NIGHT OF THE COMET, her opening complaint to the theatre manager. When she is told to check the theatre, she replies "Oh Mel, they throw things at me...Have you ever been hit with Dots? Milk Duds? Those things hurt!" and her subsequent annoyance at losing a high score on the video game Tempest.
I was able to contact her and ask her thoughts on the making of those two films.
“The Last Starfighter” was my first movie here in the States. All I can say is that it was a joy from the audition process to the actual filming. I was surrounded by such talent with Nick Castle as the director, Lance Guest as my leading man, Robert Preston and Dan O’Herlihy bumping up the caliber of our little film. Of course the cast of supporting characters were all well established terrific actors. For Chris Hebert who played Louis Rogan, Alex’s little brother, I believe it was his first film and he was fantastic. He was sure he was going to win an Academy Award. Very cute!
It was a tough shoot in that most of my scenes were shot at night so you have to adjust to a nocturnal existence, which is really hard and never (for me) a complete success. But as I said it really was a joy on that set. So upbeat and supportive. Little did I realize it would become the iconic film it did. I was completely oblivious at the time, of the behind the scenes computer technology that was being created from scratch. Only this year did I learn that they were developing ground breaking digital special effects, literally creating programs that had never been created, as we were shooting, scrambling to make a fast approaching deadline. Apparently technicians were in their booths working pretty much 24/7 to uncover “eureka” moments of digital calculations that set the foundation for digital special effects. Incredible!
The impact of this movie on it’s young audience in 1984 only became known to me about 3 years ago. I’ve been living in NY raising my kids and have sort of hovered on the periphery of the business until I decided to get back into it. I was auditioning for something in LA and the casting director was so excited to see me. He explained that as a boy he’d seen “The Last Starfighter” and it had been a pivotal movie for him in his childhood. It seemed to snowball from there and culminated in the 25th Anniversary release of the DVD where many of us involved in the film were interviewed for the DVD, and there was a celebratory screening in Santa Monica. It’s all a little surreal really, but I’m so proud to be involved with this charming movie that touched so many people and sent such a wonderful message while being pretty entertaining at the same time.
“Night of the Comet” was a completely different movie in terms of story and character, but I believe there was an important message that touched lots of young people as well. What was so unique about this film was the strong, young female characters. I think that’s what really attracted me to this role. I could really let the tomboy in me out, shoot uzies, fight zombies, ride motorcycles and be a strong independent rebellious young women where ultimately the “whole burden of civilization has fallen upon us.” Quite a responsibility! So much fun!
This movie was even smaller than “Starfighter” and I remember having to do my own hair and make-up on occasion, but we were all in it together and we were going to make it the best film we could. We had a very strong cast in this as well including Mary Woronov, Robert Beltran, Geoffrey Lewis and on and on. As we were shooting there was some debate between the director/writer and the producers as to whether or not this was going to be a serious horror flick or more tongue in cheek. At times we played it both ways so they could choose how it would be finally edited. I’m very pleased it turned out the way it did because I feel it was the perfect combination of funny and scary. I really think “Night of the Comet” is unique in that way.
Both “The Last Starfighter” and “Night of the Comet” seem to have stood the test of time. I think the fact that they were complex movies with young lead characters, is something that you don’t see often, especially now. They both sent strong empowering messages to young people and those messages seem to have stuck with the original audience. Hopefully they will endure.
A big thank you to Catherine Mary Stewart.
You can visit her website, and become a fan on Facebook.
You can read our interview with her NIGHT OF THE COMET co-star Kelli Maroney here.
This was written as part of the Films of 1984 Blogathon hosted by This Distracted Globe. You can read more bloggers talking about 1984 here.
THE LAST STARFIGHTER is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Universal Home Video. NIGHT OF THE COMET is on DVD from MGM.