Today: April 13, 2024

Michael Gross On Tremors

Hold onto your panties – those pesky predators are back. This October sees the release of Tremors 5: Bloodlines on Blu-ray and DVD. Starring Michael Gross as paranoid survivalist, Burt Gummer, and Jamie Kennedy as tech-savvy newcomer Travis Welker, Blood Lines takes the action to South Africa where the man-eating Grabiods are turning the inhabitants of wildlife reserve into a mobile smörgåsbord. Luckily, Burt is ready to put a whole new shine on the word overkill. Frothing fangirl and FilmJuice Features Editor Paula Hammond caught up with Michael ahead of the release to talk guns, monsters, and the love of a good woman…

When you were initially offered the role of Burt Gummer what did you think of him?
I was immediately attracted to him because of the comic possibilities – his chronic paranoia, obsessive preparation and worry. So I knew there were great comic possibilities there. I was also attracted to the genre. I’d never done a horror film before. As a child, I loved all those great Universal Horror pictures, but although I loved those films, I thought I’d kind of grown out of the genre. Then I saw this I thought that it was bright, intelligent, and funny. The fact that they were adding humour to horror in a way that I’d never quite seen before was a big part of the attraction.

Given that Burt’s described as “a crazed, right wing red necked psycho” were you surprised at how warmly the character was received?
I guess I was surprised. But when I look back on it now, I think he’s so warmly received because people like that are funny. Inherently funny. Extremes are funny. And the other thing is that the makers of Tremors have made him very human. They have taken this man who thinks he knows it all – and can be quite frankly a bit of a pain in the ass – and they make him vulnerable. He prepares for everything and then he keeps getting surprises and has to eat his words. The fact, that for all his superhuman efforts, he’s very human indeed.

Did you do any research to make sure that Burt knew how to handle guns in a professional way?
Yes, for Tremors 1 in particular, as I did not know a lot about weaponry. I’ve always gone out and gotten instruction – usually with the specific weapons I’m to use in the course of the piece. I did that again for Tremors 5 because it had been years since I’d handled weapons. We had a wonderful armourer and Jamie and I both went out shooting on a range within a day or two of arriving in South Africa. I just wanted it to look as natural as possible, because it’s really not second nature to me.

Which of the films, excluding this one, is your favourite and why?
Well I’m going to set aside Tremors 1. That’s a favourite of myself and almost everybody. My second favourite would be Tremors 4. Why?  Well, it was an interesting acting exercise for me. Tremors 4 took us back to before Burt even existed where I play his great grandfather, Hiram Gummer. Burt is somewhat of a constant – he’s the same character at the end of the film as he is at the beginning. He’s been chastened at some points. He’s been taught a lesson. But he’s essentially the same man. What I found interesting playing Hiram is that he began in one place and ended in a vastly different place. He came in as a man from the Eastern United States, with a good education, very proper, well dressed. He came to this filthy little town, filled with people about whom he cared nothing. But in the course and often film he not only begins to feel at home there but he embraces that world and even begins to enjoy shooting guns. I loved the great arc that that character travels through. So Tremors 4 would be my second favourite for sure.

A lot of actors say that, when they’re in a long-running series, they find elements of their own personality leaking into their performance. Have you found that with Burt? Are there any similarities between you and him?
I think that I worry about things more than I should. I had a father who was a warrior and one of his greatest challenges – and mine as a result of being brought up by him – was staying in the moment. That is to say, not anticipating that some terrible terrible thing was going to happen in the future because the future, to my father, was usually pretty dire. The future was full of errors and mistakes and terrible accidents waiting to happen. I’ve had to train myself, over the course of my life, to not go into the future. To – yes – prepare for calamity but not anticipate it in the way that my father did or Burt does. So, if anything, Burt has taught me to be a little more outrageous because, unchecked, I could see myself becoming very much like him. A consummate warrior, a little paranoid, and a bit of an isolator. I got married 30 years ago and the fact that I married this wonderful woman saved me from terminal eccentricity. I could have been very strange indeed had I not had somebody in my life to keep and eye on me. Somebody who does things differently. Poor Burt has never really had a real challenge to his lifestyle and this new person in his life – Travis – may just be that challenge.

Are the films as fun to make as they are to watch?
They are a great amount of fun and we’ve always had wonderful actors in the piece. But they’re hard work too. I bang myself up on these things. After Tremors 3, I need knee surgery. In this piece I broke a rib and I gashed myself up. Little accidents happen and there are times when it’s a little painful but you sleep well at night! We’re were also working long days. We had four weeks filming and I worked every day. So while it is fun, it’s exhausting. Purposely I did  not ask my wife to come with me to South Africa because I didn’t want someone in my room every night saying ‘what are we going to do tonight honey?’  because my answer would be ‘I’m taking a shower, learning some lines, having dinner and going to bed’. That’s all I want to do, because I’ve got to be up at 5 am tomorrow and do the same thing all over again!

Blood Lines has some really nice CGI effects. Is it harder to act against CGI than the physical effects used in the earlier films?
No, it’s not too difficult because we’re all pretending, even if we’re working with another actor. It’s just taking the pretending to another level. But we did some of that in the original Tremors too. Occasionally we were acting to nothing but air – it was going to be supplied afterwards. So we’ve become accustomed to that.

If you could keep one prop from the series what would it be and why?
Well, for all the fun with the guns and the weaponry and all that stuff, I like simple things. The one thing I still have – it’s not a prop, it’s a piece of costume – is my Atlanta Hawks hat. It’s very easy. I don’t have to take care of it. I don’t have to clean it. I don’t have to insure it or hide it from others, as I would if I had an extensive gun collection. I have a crummy, old, beaten up Atlanta Hawks hat and it gives me much pleasure.

What would you like to happen to Burt next?
I’d like to continue to see him challenged emotionally. We’ve left the door open to that with the possibility of him continuing with Travis should there be a Tremors 6, and I think it would be great. Let’s assume they’re living together. Let’s assume the partnership has evolved to that point. It can’t be easy. Does Burt draw a line dow the side of his room and say ‘you’re on that side and I’m on this. Don’t touch anything of mine because you’re a pig and I’m a neat nick’. You know? They are an odd couple. I think watching him emotionally try to pair himself with a partner has great comic possibilities as well as emotional ones. And will there be more monsters? Absolutely!

Check out Michael’s latest news on FB at:

Tremors 5: Blood Lines is released on Blu-ray™ and DVD on 12th October, courtesy of Universal Pictures (UK).


Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email:

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