MVPs of Horror: Griffin Dunne talks drinking tequila on 'Practical Magic' set and his 'American Werewolf' mauling

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MVPs of Horror: Griffin Dunne talks drinking tequila on 'Practical Magic' set and his 'American Werewolf' mauling

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Director Griffin Dunne on the set of Practical Magic, 1998. (Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection)

Nicole Kidman</a>, Sandra Bullock, Dianne Wiest, and Stockard Channing, down “midnight margaritas” while dancing to Harry Nilsson’s “Coconut.” (See clip below.) As director Griffin Dunne told Yahoo Entertainment, the actresses were actually drinking tequila on set&nbsp;—&nbsp;and he was right there with him, partying into the night after the cameras stopped rolling. Dunne’s latest film as director is Joan Didion: The Center Cannot Hold, a documentary about the legendary writer (also his aunt by marriage). But his extensive résumé as an actor and director also includes two Halloween classics: the aforementioned Practical Magic, a romantic comedy-thriller that has become a cult favorite, and 1981’s An American Werewolf in London, John Landis’s horror-comedy classic, in which Dunne co-stars as a werewolf victim turned wisecracking corpse. With the witchiest of holidays approaching, Yahoo Entertainment talked to Dunne about directing a Nicole Kidman exorcism, getting mauled by a low-tech werewolf, and other spooky set stories.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”31″>One of the most delightful drinking scenes ever committed to film appears in 1998’s Practical Magic: Two generations of in-the-closet witches, played by Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock, Dianne Wiest, and Stockard Channing, down “midnight margaritas” while dancing to Harry Nilsson’s “Coconut.” (See clip below.) As director Griffin Dunne told Yahoo Entertainment, the actresses were actually drinking tequila on set — and he was right there with him, partying into the night after the cameras stopped rolling. Dunne’s latest film as director is Joan Didion: The Center Cannot Hold, a documentary about the legendary writer (also his aunt by marriage). But his extensive résumé as an actor and director also includes two Halloween classics: the aforementioned Practical Magic, a romantic comedy-thriller that has become a cult favorite, and 1981’s An American Werewolf in London, John Landis’s horror-comedy classic, in which Dunne co-stars as a werewolf victim turned wisecracking corpse. With the witchiest of holidays approaching, Yahoo Entertainment talked to Dunne about directing a Nicole Kidman exorcism, getting mauled by a low-tech werewolf, and other spooky set stories. 

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Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman in Practical Magic. (Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection)

And you know, Nicole never does anything halfway. She wanted to bang her head on the floor, and I remember when we laid down the floor we weren’t sure where she was going to land. So rubber panels, rubber wood strips were laid out. And I just remember her, take after take, slamming her head. She looked totally possessed. I mean, I think she brought on a rash. Her skin would go bright red, from white to red to white in waves of, you know, purging. It was intense.

world of witches, that had witch logic to it.

—&nbsp;</span>well, guess what we drank? We all drank tequila and shot that scene&nbsp;—&nbsp;thank God the DP didn’t have any&nbsp;—&nbsp;but we shot it and they all went nuts, and we all danced around. I think “Lime in the Coconut” was going. And then we wrapped the scene but kept drinking and dancing to “Lime in the Coconut.”” data-reactid=”60″>You know, one of the most fun days we had was the last shot of the day in Friday Harbor, and then we were all going to go to the soundstage in Los Angeles afterwards, where we shot the girls all drinking tequila and they become nuts in the kitchen — well, guess what we drank? We all drank tequila and shot that scene — thank God the DP didn’t have any — but we shot it and they all went nuts, and we all danced around. I think “Lime in the Coconut” was going. And then we wrapped the scene but kept drinking and dancing to “Lime in the Coconut.”

money back and it made a profit, the movie was not considered a success at the time. And I took a bit of a hit as a director. And Warner Bros. was a little weird about it, you know? So I was kind of in director’s jail for a while. I could never quite figure out what that was about. But what I have noticed is, every woman I’ve dated since just loves that movie and goes on and on about it. It’s just kind of grown and grown in appreciation, which I’m really happy about.” data-reactid=”61″>Have you noticed Practical Magic gaining a following over the years?
Yeah. Even though it made its money back and it made a profit, the movie was not considered a success at the time. And I took a bit of a hit as a director. And Warner Bros. was a little weird about it, you know? So I was kind of in director’s jail for a while. I could never quite figure out what that was about. But what I have noticed is, every woman I’ve dated since just loves that movie and goes on and on about it. It’s just kind of grown and grown in appreciation, which I’m really happy about.

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Griffin Dunne and David Naughton in An American Werewolf in London. (Universal/courtesy Everett Collection)

[special effects makeup artist] Rick [Baker</a>]; he made the six hours bearable. The makeup’s on, and then it constricts and then it pulls on your skin and then it has to be loosened up; you have people fussing with you; you want to pass out from the fumes. The glue is kind of like airplane glue.” data-reactid=”85″>It’s a pretty big undertaking for a first movie.
I loved making it. I hated the makeup. I loved [special effects makeup artist] Rick [Baker]; he made the six hours bearable. The makeup’s on, and then it constricts and then it pulls on your skin and then it has to be loosened up; you have people fussing with you; you want to pass out from the fumes. The glue is kind of like airplane glue.

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Rick Baker, right, applies makeup to Griffin Dunne for An American Werewolf in London, 1981. (Universal/courtesy Everett Collection)