The situation was bad enough when comet dust wiped out the whole of humanity, created hordes of rampaging zombies and unleashed a team of psychotic scientists.
But none were any match for the gun-toting, acid-tongued teenagers portrayed by Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney.
As stars of the 1984 cult classic “Night of the Comet,” Stewart and Maroney shot, screamed and sassed their way through post-apocalyptic Southern California.
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Both actresses will be at Franklin’s Artcraft Theatre today for a special screening of “Night of the Comet,” taking part in a question-and-answer panel prior to the start of the movie. The panel will start at 6:45 p.m., with the film showing at 7:15.
The event will serve as the kick-off for this year’s Indy PopCon, an annual convention celebrating all aspects of pop culture, from gaming to sci-fi to anime. The convention will run Friday to Sunday at the Indianapolis Convention Center downtown.
In advance of the event, Steward and Maroney shared their recollections of playing spunky teenage sisters, the making of the film, it’s enduring legacy and what she’s anticipating about Indy Pop Con.
On the legacy of fandom that “Night of the Comet” has inspired:
“It’s absolutely overwhelming, and so beyond flattering and humbling, to realize you did something that people really, really enjoy. That longevity says that people still have a response to it, even after all of this time. If I do nothing else the rest of my life, I know I did something that mattered to people. It’s just a goofy little movie, but at the same time, it’s pretty cool.” — Maroney
Her first impressions on a film about comets, zombies and teenagers:
“My agent called and sent me a script, saying that I’d be auditioning for this. She said, ‘Don’t be alarmed, but it’s called “Teenage Comet Zombies.” But it’s not going to be called that.’” — Maroney
On the connection she felt as soon as she read the script:
“I got the shooting script and I read it while I was on the plane to California. I was laughing out loud on the plane, which never happens. (Writer) Thom Eberhardt has an extremely entertaining way of writing a script. I had a feeling about it. Something struck a chord with me when I read it and became involved in it, and made me want to put my whole heart into it.” — Maroney
Trying to convince producer Wayne Crawford to audition for the part of Reggie, the older of the two main characters:
“I asked him if I could audition for Reggie, and he said no. I thought it was a really cool part, with the motorcycle, but we don’t see ourselves as others see us. I didn’t see why I couldn’t grow up into the big sister part. But he said no. They knew what they wanted.” — Maroney
On the connection to their characters:
“I had the good fortune to work with Roy London, who is one of the greatest acting coaches of our time. Like I said, I had a connection with the character. I could picture if it was the end of the world, and I had never gotten to do anything yet. (Roy) helped me make things more specific, and the more specific you can make things, the more the audience will go along with the ride with you.” — Maroney
“I had been mostly type cast as ‘the girl next door.’ It was so refreshing to have the opportunity to play a character that was strong, smart and independent. Even to this day it’s unusual to find a movie driven by female characters so that was very attractive.” — Stewart
An unlucky first day of shooting:
“I remember specifically the very first day of the shoot. I actually drove my car in to the side of a mountain on the way to the set — it’s a long story — so although I managed to get there it was a less than auspicious beginning. However the transportation department took over, got my car to a garage and had the car repaired by the end of the day. It also happened to be a great first day on the set.”– Stewart
Meeting her co-star for the first time:
“The first day of shooting was the scene at our house, where Reggie comes to the house and Sam doesn’t know that everyone in the world is gone. That was the first time Cathy and I met. She had done soaps, and I had done soaps. She’s from Canada, and I’m from Minnesota, so there was a sensibility there of ‘let’s get to work.’ It was a luck of chemistry.” — Maroney
On the unique qualities of the film:
“There was quite a lot of discussion about whether or not this would be more of a traditional horror-zombie film, but Thom Eberhardt wrote it to be much more than that. There is an element of humor and innocence in amongst the horror of the end of the earth and the zombies. I’m so glad the original intention of the film won out. It makes it stand out and remain unique.” — Stewart
The serious core of emotion people take away from a film about zombies, comets and the end of the world:
“What are you going to do when the world is over? Who in your life is going to count? It’s the people who are there in your immediate circle; they become your whole world. People want to see, if it’s the end of the world, they’re going to be OK. They’re going to be alright.” — Maroney
On revisiting the film after more than 30 years:
“I’m very grateful to have been a part of it. Certainly at the time, none of us had any notion that it might have the audience endurance that it’s had. We didn’t really think about it. We all moved on with our careers and, speaking for myself, I tried to make my career as diverse as possible in terms of genres and characters. I am happy that this particular film has had the longevity that it’s had as it is probably the most unique.” — Stewart
On why this film has endured:
“I think it’s empowering for young women to see other young women in-control in an out-of-control situation. Equally, young men love to see powerful women. I have heard that over and over again.” — Stewart
“I think it plays into people’s feelings about what’s going to happen in the world. We were wondering in the ‘80s, and we’re really wondering now. It’s satirical about the misguided values of ‘stuff.’ We still have that to some degree. It’s more out there; I don’t know if people in the ‘80s realized it was satire, but audiences today realize that.” — Maroney
On traveling the country to attend fan conventions such as Indy PopCon:
“It’s fun to come to the rest of the country to do these, because people in California are kind of jaded. They can see us at 7-11. It’s much more fun to come to different parts of the country. I do one or two of these a year. You don’t want to do too many — people get tired of seeing you. It’s got to be an event when you show up.” — Maroney
“I’m constantly shocked and surprised at the passion and knowledge that the fans bring to these events. Honestly, most of the fans know more about the film than I do. I really do love meeting everyone and appreciate that they are interested in meeting me. If it were not for the fans I would be out of business.” — Stewart
“Night of the Comet”
What: A special screening of the sci-fi cult classic, with a question-and-answer session with stars Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney scheduled beforehand.
When: Q&A starts at 6:45 p.m. today. The film will begin at 7:15 p.m.
Where: Historic Artcraft Theatre, 57 N. Main St., Franklin
What’s the movie about: Sisters Reggie and Sam have to navigate post-apocalyptic Southern California after dust from a comet kills off most of the population and turns the rest to zombies.
VIPs: A special VIP meet-and-greet with Stewart and Maroney will be held at 5:30 p.m. at Triple Play BBQ, 186 W. Jefferson St., Franklin. Tickets are $50.
Admission: General admission tickets to the event are $9, with premium seating up front go for $18. Tickets are available at HistoricArtcraftTheatre.org.