Just in time for Mother’s Day, John Waters’ 1994 cult classic Serial Mom is getting a deluxe Blu-ray treatment. We spoke with the Pope of Trash about the making of the film, the possibility of a Serial Mom series, and whether he’d ever work with Kathleen Turner again.
It was nice seeing you on-screen in Feud. I loved your cameo.
Thank you! I got to play [director] William Castle, finally. I was so touched that Terry Castle wrote me how proud she was of me playing her dad.
And in a full circle moment, there’s a scene in Serial Mom where the teens are watching [William Castle’s] Straight-Jacket.
I know—I forgot that! Isn’t that amazing?
You shot Serial Mom in Towson, Maryland, where you and Divine grew up. How was it going back two decades later?
It was good to go back to Towson High, where the teacher [in the movie] gets run over, because that’s where Divine went to high school. He got beat up every day and had to have the police escort him home. But Divine was not outrageous at all in high school. He was kind of a nerd—but Towson has apologized for that. They were lovely to let us film there. Can you imagine a school letting us run over your teacher? And the kids were there during filming! It was pretty liberal.
Do you think the concept of a homicidal housewife is as outrageous today?
I think it maybe even makes more sense now when you watch it, because at the time people thought it was true. They really believed it because I worked hard to make look like it. My favorite is the end when it says: “Beverly Sutphin refused to cooperate with the making of this film.” That makes people think it really is true. “Where is she today?” people ask me.
There are stories this insane in the press all the time—and with today’s political correctness that’s gotten so extreme I think some college students would root for Serial Mom thinking: “You deserve to die if you don’t recycle.”
Is there a recent high-profile trial you wish you’d sat in on?
Well, I can’t go to trials anymore because people recognize me. I also believe that if the jury hated me or my films they would take it out on the defendant, which I don’t think is fair. I’d be like Suzanne Somers [at the end of Serial Mom] because the last time I went people were asking for autographs. They thought I was making a movie about it, which I wasn’t.
I wish I could have gone to the Boston Bomber trial because I’m interested in that lawyer, Judy Clarke. She does all of the worst cases and never talks to the press. She is the only person I wish I was. The only two people left I want to meet are Judy Clarke and Eminem—and neither have any desire to meet me.
Why do you want to meet Eminem?
I’m a fan!
You and Kathleen Turner still do events together and seem to really like each another. Why did you never do another movie together?
Well, because I only made a couple movies afterwards. And with star names, the studios want you to get a new one each time. The only time that wasn’t going to happen was when Johnny Knoxville was going to play the father in Fruitcake, the movie I didn’t make. I would work with Kathleen again in a minute, I think she’s a wonderful actress. I go to see all of her theater, I’ve seen everything she’s done. I’m a big fan and we’re still friends.
What is happening with Fruitcake?
Nothing! I doubt it’s going to happen now. I mean it could, I still have meetings about it every once in a while. I’ve been pregnant with that for awhile. It’s the only time I’ve been pro-life. I don’t want an abortion, I want an anal birth. Now that would be video-on-demand.
After the Hairspray and Cry-Baby musicals was there ever talk of a Serial Mom musical?
No. I always wanted to do Serial Mom as a TV series where she killed once a month and it dealt with political correctness the three weeks before each murder. I think it would make a good series. Maybe Kathleen could come back—we could call it Serial Grandmom.
In the movie, Beverly is enraged by people who have poor manners. Are there any etiquette rules you want to retire?
No! I’d like to kill people for how they dress on airplanes. What slobs people are—it’s shocking to me! And I don’t care what anyone says, you still can’t wear white after Labor Day. It’s a sign of poor upbringing. I don’t mean “poor” money-wise, I mean in: “Didn’t your mother tell you?”
My mother was Serial Mom in a way: She said it was my best movie—because, I think, she identified with it. Once when I was young there was something on television about a mine disaster and the miners were trapped inside. All of their wives were crying on TV and some of them had their hair in curlers and my mother goes: “Look at her hair” [laughs]. I even put that line in the movie.
Mother’s Day is coming up. What does someone need to do if they wanted to throw a Serial Mom Mother’s Day party?
I think you would do things that would bait Beverly, like wear white shoes and chew gum, or using poor English. Just have bad manners and dress like your mother. That’s the first thing Kathleen said the first day she was in the full costume and hair: “Oh, my God, I’m my mother.”
Serial Mom is out on Blu-ray on May 9.