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We Interview Catherine Mary Stewart, Heroine of The Last Starfighter!

Catherine Mary Stewart interview

Catherine Mary Stewart is one of IMDb's Top 5,000 Stars. With a career spanning over three decades and more than thirty-seven feature films to her credit, she's a familiar face to countless fans. Ms. Stewart has appeared in productions as varied as the comedy Weekend at Bernie's and the sci-fi spectacle Night of the Comet. On the small screen, she's graced shows such as White Collar and TV movies like the thriller The Husband She Met Online. The Retro Injection crew admires her work.

Night of the Comet movie newspaper ad

1984's Night of the Comet is an apocalyptic fantasy/horror flick. What was it like to portray the independent Regina, waging war with the undead and insane in an L.A. wasteland? What is your favorite memory about working on the set? What would you say is the take-away message of the film?

In a word, FUN!! To have the opportunity to play this kick ass chick was like a dream come true for me. Up to that point I was generally cast as “the girl next door” type. Regina allowed me to bring out the other side, the more true side of who I am. It was a tough shoot. Low budget, short schedule, somewhat rogue location shoots. It was a kind of a team effort by the seat of our pants. We all put our hearts into it. It was scary but with that tongue in cheek aspect. That’s what made it so unique and perhaps as sustainable as it has become. It’s amazing the longevity it’s maintained and the large group of die hard fans. It amazes me every day.
I think one of the take away messages is young women can drive a film and both women and men love it!! It is a joke that this still male dominated business appear to only be comfortable with testosterone filled mega-movies. Even the movies where a female is the lead, they play testosterone filled women, or men in a corset. I admire how fit and beautiful these women are but we don’t have to be big and muscular to dominate in a movie.
Night of the Comet Catherine Mary Stewart interview

In Night of the Comet, Regina plays a mean game of Tempest, the Atari arcade machine which weighs into later events of the film. Gaming in the '80s was generally considered a boys' club, and in recent years there has been talk of your character being a beacon of feminism. What is your opinion on this retrospective? Out of personal curiosity as an arcade fan, were you actually good at the game?

I did not know how to play the game, in fact there was nothing on the screen as I played it in the movie. That is not to say that girls didn’t or don’t play these kind of games. I doubt that playing an arcade game should be considered a beacon of feminism. I think it was just really fun, inspiring and entertaining to see a self assured girl portrayed on the screen. Why is that an anomaly? It’s crazy! We had an original Missile Command arcade game and my daughter is the best in the family. It never occurred to me that the fact that she’s a girl made any difference what so ever.
The Last Starfighter Catherine Mary Stewart interview

An arcade game, albeit a ficitious one, also plays a big part in The Last Starfighter, a sci-fi feature from 1984 in which you shined as a strong heroine. As recently as this year, there has been talk of a sequel. While it's yet unknown as to whether this would serve as a reboot or direct sequel, how do you feel about the prospect of turning The Last Starfighter into a franchise? If you could participate in a new entry, what would you like to do?

Everything old is new again it seems. I guess the way things are going with re-boots and sequels it was inevitable. I’m a little weary of these and it seems more often than not, they don’t live up to the original. I feel like whatever happens with “The Last Starfighter” or now “Night of the Comet”, they will be very different from the small, character driven, charming movies that the originals were. That makes me sad, but I think it would be impossible to capture the sensibility of the originals. Having said that, I would love to be involved.
Weekend at Bernie's Catherine Mary Stewart interview

You appear in the 1989 underground hit, Weekend at Bernie's. What did you find most challenging about working within its charmingly bizarre premise of keeping a fully-visible corpse a secret?

When I first read the script I found it rather gross and offensive. As it turns out those elements were the most popular. I had a blast just being a part of this outrageous comedy. Terry Kiser is a doll and was such a trooper especially as dead Bernie. That was a physically exhausting role for him and he ended up injured. Playing dead and being thrown around as much as he was, was no walk in the park. For me it really was fun being a part of the over the top humor.
Catherine Mary Stewart interview

You've had television roles on Days of Our Lives, Guiding Light and Knight Rider, to name a few. Please explain what you appreciate about acting in a dramatic capacity, and in the comedic demands of you cult film fare. What opportunities do they each offer?

As an actor I want to play as many different characters as possible. Throughout my career I’ve had the great opportunity to do just that and I love every second of it. Every new role is challenging and a learning experience. Some experiences have been less smooth than others, but overall there is never a dull moment and that’s what life is all about to me.

What do you like best about working in television? You're quite active in the medium, with roles in several recent TV shows such as 2015's Limitless and movies like the 2017 release Love on the Vines. What programs and/or films in which you appear are your favorites and why?

That is a question that I get a lot! What is my favorite film or TV appearance. As I said, each character offers new and interesting challenges and that is why I love acting. I fall in love and embrace every role I get so I could never pinpoint one role that I love over any others.

You have a major role in the upcoming When We Dance the Music Dies, also starring William Ragsdale and Eric Roberts. What can you tell us about your part and the film?

The role is dark and dramatic. I play a character who’s life is torn apart by the disappearance of her child. It was a pleasure to work with William Ragsdale. He’s a lovely man. I didn’t actually see Eric Roberts on the set. We were in completely unrelated scenes. I did work directly with Eric in a TV movie called “Class”. We played a wealthy husband and wife. I played an alcoholic, lonely, depressed wife and mother to Eric’s total jerk and dismissive husband. He pulled it off in spades!

Retro Injection has documented its love for Cannon Films, with articles on the Breakin' movies and Masters of the Universe. You appear as yourself in the 2014 documentary Electric Boogalo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films. What were your experiences with the legendary, low-budget studio?

I worked with Cannon Films in the very first movie I ever did called “The Apple” so my perspective was very limited. I had nothing to compare the experience to, and in fact “The Apple” was framed as a fairly large budget movie that Cannon thought would be a block buster! I found the whole experience amazing and it literally changed the course of my life. In retrospect, having the experiences that I have had in my career I would say that perhaps working with Menahem Golan was unique, but he taught me a lot about passion and integrity and belief in oneself.

What are some of the most important things you’ve learned over your long career?

It’s an incredibly tough business. You have to be a certain kind of masochist to stay in it. I have learned strength, passion, determination, integrity, respect and a joy of storytelling.

Many thanks go out to Catherine for her time! We urge Night of the Comet lovers to check out our Q&A with fellow star Kelli Maroney, and read Luke's review of the film. Inspired by Ms. Stewart's comments about Missile Command, I couldn't resist tying things together by taking this picture in my home arcade.

The Last Starfighter VHS tape on an Atari Missile Command arcade game.


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