Monday, January 27, 2014

Catherine Mary Stewart Talks with the Café About Her Cult Film Classics, Dernzies, and a Kiss from Robert Preston

Since her film debut in 1980, Catherine Mary Stewart has thrived in film, television, and on stage. She starred in three bona fide cult classics from the 1980s: Night of the Comet, The Last Starfighter, and Weekend at Bernie's. She has guest starred in television series such as White CollarKnight Rider, and Days of Our Lives. Married since 1992, Catherine Mary Stewart has two children. In between acting jobs and raising a family, she found time to stop by the Café for an interview.

Café How did you get the lead role in your first film, the quirky 1980 science fiction musical The Apple?

Catherine Mary Stewart rocking out on
The Apple's soundtrack album cover.
Catherine Mary Stewart:  I was living in London, England, attending a performing arts school. One day on my way to dance class, I ran into a couple of fellow students walking in the opposite direction. They told me that they were heading to an open dance audition for a new movie musical. I had never experienced anything like this. The words of my teacher and mentor, Jill MacDonald, from my hometown came flooding back. She said, "While you are studying in London take advantage of every audition you can..." I decided to tag along. I found myself in among around 200 women and men in a cattle call dance audition with the then-unknown Nigel Lythgoe leading as the choreographer. Some time during the audition, I apparently caught the director's eye. He pulled me out of the group and asked me if I could act and sing as well as dance. Of course I said, "Of course!" Before I knew it, I was reading for him from the script and singing one of the songs. The next thing I knew I was cast as Bibi, the lead female in The Apple.

Café Night of the Comet was a cult classic even before zombies become a pop culture phenomenon. Why do you think it has grown in popularity over the last 30 years?

Comet co-start Kelli Maroney and
Catherine Mary Stewart.
CMS:  I think Night of the Comet offers several unique takes on the zombie genre of film. First of all, it doesn't take itself too seriously. I think there's a fantastic combination of scary and hilarious. Another unusual characteristic is that the protagonists are female. How cool is that? Young women who can fend for themselves! Plus, it's a character-driven story. We really get to know these girls and we root for them. I love that both women and men dig it!    

CaféYou and Kelli Maroney were delightful as the zombie-kicking Belmont sisters in Night of the Comet. Was there ever any discussion of a sequel or pairing the two of you in another movie?

CMS:  Kelli and I had and still have a great relationship. As much as we both would have liked to do a sequel (and still do), there has never been any serious discussion about that with the powers that be. I suppose if there's enough uproar from the fans MGM/UA (I believe they own the rights) might consider it.... In terms of working with Kelli again in another project, I would be delighted!

Café:  The Last Starfighter was one of the best teen-oriented films made in the 1980s and featured a terrific cast. What was it like working with Robert Preston, Lance Guest, and Dan O'Herlihy?

Robert Preston in The Last Starfighter.
CMS:  Lance Guest is still a dear friend of mine. He is one of the most down-to-earth, principled actors I've known. He made the process of making The Last Starfighter delightful and honest. I only had one scene with Dan O'Herlihy. It was when Alex (Guest) lands his spacecraft in the trailor park. He introduces me to Grig (O'Herlihy). Honestly, I had no idea what the man looked like. I only saw Mr. O'Herlihy in his full Grig prosthetic makeup. Later, I looked him up online. What a handsome man he was and what a talent portraying all the emotions and expressions through that thick rubber mask. Sadly, I didn't have any scenes with Robert Preston. I did meet him by chance at a re-shoot for the movie. I was introduced to this lovely, charming man who had that undeniable classic Hollywood movie star glow about him. I was giddy with excitement. He kissed my hand and I swore I would never wash it... What an honor that was. The Last Starfighter was the last movie that Robert Preston appeared in before his death in 1987. How lucky can one girl get to be in the same film with a couple of the most iconic actors of the 20th century?

Café Last November, you participated in a Weekend at Bernie's reunion at the Rhode Island Comic Con. Why do you think Bernie's remains such a fan favorite? And what was it like reuniting with Andrew McCarthy, Jonathan Silverman, and other cast members?

Weekend at Bernie's.
CMS:  I think Weekend at Bernie's was one of the original what I like to call "sophomoric" comedies. A couple of young men getting involved with all sorts of unlucky high jinx, comedic situations. Real belly laugh stuff. It's become a classic! Of course, no one could have played Bernie like Terry Kiser! He deserves so much credit. His interpretation of Bernie is what you think of when you think of that movie. Everyone else was just incidental, ultimately... :) I hadn't seen any of the cast for years! The most recent was Jonathan a few years ago at a wrap party. I loved seeing Jonathan, Andrew and Terry. They are sweet and gracious and so talented. I am grateful to be a part of this classic movie that has become a sort of comedic reference on so many other shows. 

Café:  Several of your films have gained exposure over the years. Even a clip of the The Apple was shown on an episode of Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (about a restaurant owned by your Apple co-star Allan Love). Which one of your other films do you think deserve more attention and why?

Michael Pare and CMS.
CMS:  Wow! I didn't know they showed a clip on Kitchen Nightmares. I did happen to see the end of that episode. I kept looking at Allan and not realizing who it was, but there was something so familiar about him. I hadn't seen Allan for probably 30 years. It wasn't until the end of the show when they were on the beach with a director's chair that had his name on it, that it all came together! I immediately found him online and we've been in touch ever since. Incidentally, The Apple is screened quite regularly around the country. Even here in NY, there have been many midnight screenings including a couple at the illustrious Lincoln Center. One of my favorite movies that I did was called World Gone Wild. It had an incredible cast including: Bruce Dern, Michael Pare, Adam Ant and more. It's a kind of post apocalyptic movie about a odd group of outcasts who defend a "settlement" and their rare supply of much sought after water. I attended a Q & A session with Bruce Dern for his role in Nebraska a couple of days ago. Again, he is someone I haven't seen for over 25 years. He is incredibly sharp and interesting. Mr. Dern is a wonderful storyteller and forgets absolutely nothing! I got to say hello to him after the session. He remembered me without a pause. Again, what a talent and what an honor and hoot to work with him. His performance was so great! Full of "Dernzies" as they are called. And some of the stuff that came out of his mouth in between shots...I still share some of those stories today. They are not necessarily appropriate for a general audience, so don't ask...:) 

Café:  As one of the many performers who honed their acting skills on a daytime drama, what was your reaction when many long-running soaps were cancelled?

CMS:  Hmm, well I suppose it's the nature of the business. Audiences change. I feel badly for the actors who were put out of work, but hopefully they found other opportunities. Days of Our Lives is still chugging along. I tune in every once in a while just to check it out. I'm astounded at how many actors that I worked with on the show are still there! Soap operas are a great spring board for actors new to the business. It is a great way to learn discipline. I've never worked as hard as I did on soaps.

Café:  Unlike some of the young stars of the 1980s, you have stayed steadily busy in film, television, and theater throughout the years. What's the secret to your success?

CMS and Matt Bomer on the USA
Network TV series White Collar.
CMS:  It is a tough business. I moved from LA, where I was established, to NY where I had to start all over again. At the same time, I had two kids to raise, all while trying to stay current. It has been a struggle to be sure. I have been determined not to give up. I worked hard to get where I was and I've always worked hard to validate that. As my children grow and become adults, I hope to focus more on my work. There is no real "secret."  You just have to believe and be determined. Never give up if it is your passion. I'm also exploring producing and directing.    

Café What are your favorite kinds of films?

CMS:  I am a fan of pretty much all genres of movies. I like foreign films to documentaries, musicals to drama, old and new. I love a good honest laugh, shriek and cry. I love movies that have interesting characters and stories that I can invest in and ponder. If I have a feeling that I've been taken on a journey that leaves me satisfied and even transformed on some level, I am happy!  

Café:  What upcoming projects are you working on that you'd like to share with the Café's readers?

CMS:  I'm looking forward to directing a short film this spring. I also have a project that I've been developing about a heroic true-life woman that was responsible for saving millions of lives in the 1980s. Of course, I'm always on the look out for acting work!  

You can learn more about Catherine Mary Stewart at her web site and by "liking" her on Facebook (click here to visit her page).


  1. What a lovely interview, Rick! My husband and I remember "Night of the Comet" and "The Last Starfighter" very well. "Comet" was especially fun because it was two sisters who were the strength of the film. It is always great to see strong female leads. I was particularly intrigued by the title of your interview because I could not imagine what Dernzies were. I am not familiar with "World Gone Wild" but will be on the lookout for it because it is always fun to watch a work that an actor feels is especially strong. Catherine Mary, you are as beautiful today as you were in your early roles. Thank you so much for stopping by to visit with everyone at the cafe!

    1. Toto, I'm a huge fan of both COMET and STARFIGHTER, two of the most underrated films of the 1980s.

  2. Great interview, Rick! An underrated actress for sure.. I could see her in a lead or co-lead in a TV drama or even a comedy. A few weeks ago I saw a repeat of "The Outer Limits" where she co-starred with Tom Arnold as a couple who gets a robot to do the housework (that was a great episode if you haven't seen it, by the way). I said to myself, "why aren't I seeing more of her?"

    1. I have not seen that OUTER LIMITS episode, but it sounds like an interesting one! I've always thought Catherine Mary Stewart was a very appealing actress--an ideal series lead.

  3. Great interview. I had the great fortune of working with Catherine on the comedy "Mischief" and have remained friends with her. Her Facebook site id updated constantly and she is very active on. It's a great place for fans. Lots of great stuff on her website too and a great shop as well

  4. I've never heard of The Apple. Is it on DVD? Night of the Comet is epic! She's even better looking today than then.

  5. Sadly, I have not seen any of these movies, but she sounds like a delightful person. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this interview.