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Breakin' 2 Interview with director Sam Firstenberg

How did you get involved in directing Breakin’ 2?

At the time I just finished the Ninja series for Cannon
Films and they offered me to direct this film.

Breakin’ 2 seems very different than the other movies
you’ve directed (American Ninja, Cyborg Cop, Cyborg
Soldier). Do you have a preference in the type of films you direct?

I general I like all sorts of movies, but action movies and dance movies have a lot in common. Aside from
dialogue scenes there is the creation of action, which are not verbal but rather purely cinematic in nature.
Regretfully there are not a lot of musical and dance movies made, but my work ranges from action to sc-if
to horror, as well as to comedy and to dance.

What was your favorite film that you’ve directed and why?

Every movie has a corner in my heart - but among my favorites are American Ninja, Avenging Force, and of course Breakin' 2 because it gave me the opportunity to be surrounded with music, dancers, and happy and talented people.

What did directing this film teach you about break dancing and the whole hip hop culture?

That there are certain things you should not try at home!! But seriously, despite the fact that hip hop was embraced by only a certain segment of the population, the people involved were very excited, optimistic, and there was a lot of energy surrounding this movement.

Did any of the actors teach you any break dance moves?

Yes, they tried hard.... but to no avail! I do not have the talent for these moves. They did, however, give me a "street name" as was customary in the hip hop movement --- Sam the Sham!

It seems that both Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2 – Electric Boogaloo both have the same theme making break dancing accepted as a valuable form of dance to those outsides the breakin’/hip hop culture. Is that what these films were trying to accomplish as well?

I believe that this was definitely the mission of Shabadoo, the most prominent among the break-dancers on the set. We, as filmmakers were only trying to provide good entertainment.

How do you think the Breakin’ films influenced the break dancing culture?

It helped to spread the popularity, especially among the very young.

I was only two years old when Breakin’ 2 came out in theatres, so of course I don’t remember this. Could you tell me what the reaction was to this film when it came into theatres?

First, I think the movie was at the height of the breakdance era. The first movie to come out was Breakin’ and then a movie called Beat Street, but “Breakin’2-Electric Boogaloo” topped them all and became a national and worldwide immediate hit with the young audience. It was 1985 and even today, I still get fan mail from people who say that this movie influenced them as teenagers. I have been told that on e-bay original posters and laser discs go for about $200- $300 apiece! It became an icon of the 1980’s.

What do you think about Breakin’ 2 – Electric Boogaloo being so popular that it’s now been released on DVD, even before Breakin’ 1 was released on DVD?

I think it speaks to the popularity of this movie, and it gives me a lot of satisfaction that a film with a lot of positive energy still entertains.

I think it’s fair to say that Breakin’ 2 has really had quite a cult following. Does this surprise you? Did you ever think this would be the case when you were making the film?

When making the film we had no idea that ten years later people would say that this movie changed their lives! So yes, it really did surprise me because this sort of thing only happens with a handful of movies. It is amazing that as the years go by, it is getting bigger and bigger.

Break dancing, and the whole 80’s culture has definitely been making a revival recently. If offered the script, would you ever consider directing Breakin’3?

I would be delighted to be involved in such a positive project. I think it would actually be a great idea.

Do you still keep in contact with any of the actors? If so, where are they now and what are they up to?

Occasionally I hear from the actors. Lucinda Dickey is a mother of two and "Shabadoo" is involved in a lot of dance and film projects. They both have websites so readers can visit and learn more. I do not know the whereabouts of "Shrimp."

Do you have any funny stories you could tell us of things that happened behind the scenes or offset?

The dinner scene in Kelly's parents' house was shot in a mansion that once belonged to Mary Pickford, in a very nice LA neighborhood. Since the movie always had a following of groupies hanging around the set, there were a lot of people standing outside the house. Rumors started to circulate that Muhammad Ali was living next door to the set. Indeed, around 11 AM, drawn by the general commotion, out comes Muhammad Ali to everybody's delight. He stayed to eat lunch with us, walked around and spoke with all the kids, and was a really good sport.

Another anecdote was that I got a citation from the Labor Department and the police. One day while shooting a wide shot of all the dancers coming down the street during the first big street dance number, a bunch of kids on bicycles came to me and asked if they could be in the scene. Unaware of all sorts of labor and traffic regulations, I sent the group of kids to ride their bikes with our dancers. When the scene was over I was approached by a
police officer and another official, apparently from the Department of Labor, and both informed me that I had violated a lot laws regarding traffic and youth employment. Luckily, since it was the first time, both gave me only a warning, but that if I did it again I would be off the picture and perhaps have to face a judge.

The sequel is extremely different than the first Breakin’ movie. Electric Boogaloo is almost like the sequel to a movie that never existed. How did it turn out this way? (Example: Kelly’s parents, “fiancÚ” Derek and Ozone’s ex girlfriend are not in the first movie).

Approaching the script it was decided from the outset that except the three characters that would continue, the movie would not be a continuation of the first. We were looking for a completely new theme, to be bigger, and viewers that did not see the first one would be able to enjoy it.

How were the dancers for the movie found? There are some amazing dancers. For instance, the little kid, “Hot Tot”.

Billy Goodman was the talented choreographer and he his well connected with the dance world and dance studios. He was in charge of finding all the dancers. Shabadoo was also well entrenched in the world of dancers and contributed to recruitment.

How did the scene with Turbo dancing on the ceiling and all over the room work? I’ve always wondered how you did that. It’s amazing!

Creating such a scene involves a very elaborate mechanism of a room set that can mechanically rotate. As the dancer makes his way across the walls and ceiling, he is actually standing up and the room rotates under his feet. So in reality, when he is on the ceiling, he is actually standing up and the ceiling is under his feet. As the dance continues, the room rotates until the floor is once again under his feet.

Why does Turbo’s girlfriend suddenly walk out of the closet in the hospital scene? That part has always confused me. It seems as if there’s a scene missing.

Yes, you are right, there was a scene where she sneaks into the hospital to help him, but after the initial cut of the movie was too long, we had to take out pieces and this scene was one of those sacrificed to keep the movie in the 90 minute range.

What was it like directing the giant crowd scene in the end of the film?

This was the best! I love big crowd scenes and the more the merrier. There is a feeling of exhilaration to see so many people dancing and moving to the beat of the music that was played through huge speakers.

How did you get all those people to show up for the shot?

This was actually easy. The production team announced it on all the radio stations in Los Angeles, and we shot on the weekend. So many people at the time were hip hop fans, so the square filled up in no time.

What are you working on now?

I have just completed a Sci-Fi Comedy called "The Interplanetary Surplus Male and Amazon Women from Outer Space." I am starting a new project called "Explosive Love," a politically driven thriller to be shot in April.

Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. It's so great to be able to interview the director of one of my all time favorite films.

Thanks again!

Katie Durant