Fernando Leal has been kind enough to translate an interview with Mojica for us! The original is availible at Jornal da Tarde.
"Bizarre and cult, Coffin Joe gets a biography"
By Marcos Filippi
Translated by Fernando Leal
Brazilians tend to appreciate everything that comes from abroad and
not to give proper attention to their national “product”. 62-year-old
filmmaker José Mojica Marins knows this very well. After conquering
the USA and Europe as Coffin Joe, our Zé do Caixão became a TV star
[as host of a daily horror film show called ‘Cine Trash’] and his
films became ‘cult’ films. Now, his life and career are told in the
book ‘Maldito: A Vida e o Cinema de José Mojica Marins, o Zé do
Caixão’ (Editora 34, 448 pages). The authors are the journalists André
Barcinski and Ivan Finotti.
Interviewed by JT, the filmmaker talks about the book, his plans, and
how he resents Brazil.
Jornal da Tarde: What did you think about the book ‘Maldito’?
José Mojica Marins: This is my first biography and it’s very well
made, with a lot of research and never-before-seen photos. It shows
two sides: people who admire my work and those who hate me.
When did you realize you were meant to be a filmmaker?
I lived in Vila Anastácio, in the back of Cine Santo Estevão. When I
was nine, my father was going to give me a bike for my birthday. I
asked for an 8mm camera, instead. I was already fascinated with the
supernatural. My first film was very funny. The friends who could
bring me a bag full of maggots would get a free ticket to the theater.
I made ‘Juízo Final’ (‘Final Judgement’), a story where the good ones
would be taken to Heaven on a flying coffin and the bad ones would
become maggots on Earth.
And how did your family react?
My parents were always supportive. The day I showed the film, my
father was proud and invited his friends, and my mother, who was very
catholic, invited the priest. After the screening, my father’s friends
told him I had some kind of a problem and he should seek a good
psychologist. The priest wanted to exorcise me and kicked me out of
the church drama classes.
When did you really begin to have problems with the Church?
In 1957, when I made ‘A Sina do Aventureiro’ (‘The Adventurer’s
Fate’). There was a scene where the hero swam in a waterfall with two
nude women. The priests thought that was an attack to morality and
they kind of prohibited the countryside theaters to exhibit it. The
solution was to make a deal. I made the feature-length ‘Meu Destino em
Suas Mãos’ (‘My Destiny in Your Hands’, 1961). The story was about
children who practiced small larcenies and were reeducated by priests.
The film was a failure.
What were the dictatorship times like, for you?
‘Awakening of the Beast’ was censored for 20 years and ‘This Night
I’ll Possess Your Corpse’ and ‘At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul’ had
several scenes cut. They threatened to arrest me if I ever showed
‘Awakening of the Beast’. I even got arrested in 1970. I was jailed
for one day and beaten up. They wanted me to confess I’d had sex with
Did you ever make money with your movies?
I made approximately 150 movies and I never made money in Brazil. 13
works of mine were released in the USA and I always get a little
money. It would be demagogy if I said I don’t resent Brazil. I get
upset when people give interviews now saying they started their
careers with me. When I didn’t have international prestige, they never
You’re better known in Brazil because of the folkloric character
Coffin Joe. How did you come up with the character?
It was in 1963. I dreamt I was being pushed into a cave by a man in
black, where there was my coffin with my birth date and my death date.
When I woke up, I began the screenplay of ‘At Midnight I’ll Take Your
Soul’. The day the shooting was scheduled to start, I didn’t have the
main character. The studio door-keeper dealt with black magic and had
forgotten an Exu cape there. I “borrowed” the cape, rented a top-hat
and bought a coffin.
What are your plans for ’98?
I started the medium-length film ‘Rock no Terceiro Milênio’ (‘Rock in
the Third Millenium’) in April, when I cut my left hand’s nails. It’s
a 200 thousand dollar budget, it will be the most expensive film I’ve
ever made. I’ve also started shooting ‘Adolescência em Transe’
(‘Adolescence in a Trance’), about drug dealing in schools. In live
theater, I’m auditioning girls for ‘A Guilhotina da Morte’ (‘The
Guillotine of Death’). I’m gonna have a show on Sindical Interativa
TV, which will be broadcast through the internet. In May, 89 FM will
air my stories. I’m also gonna release the CD ‘As Malditas do Zé do
Caixão’ (‘Coffin Joe’s Damned Ones’) with Brazilian and foreign bands.
But the main project will be a museum, with costumes of the movies,
articles, photos and comic books.