"Jane White Is Sick & Twisted," which opens the Hollywood Underground Film Festival May 9, began when director David Michael Latt was feeling sick and, well, twisted at another festival in 1997. Latt, 35, had aspired to direct since his movie-themed bar mitzvah at Congregation Kol Tikvah, but many of his indie films were stuck in straight-to-video hell. Meanwhile, the festival darlings were being touted for shlocky flicks about incest or necrophilia. "It was like, exploit a sensational topic, and it doesn't matter if your movie is any good," he says. There's a sheepish pause. "Of course, I was jealous."
So Encino-bred Latt decided to do a little exploiting of his own: He made a list of every Jerry Springer-worthy topic imaginable (transvestite prostitutes, serial killers) and wove them into a screenplay. His tweaked farce "Jane White" tells of a TV-obsessed gal (Kim Little) who is convinced a Springer-like TV host is her dad. Latt even hired real TV actors, such as "The Brady Bunch's" Maureen McCormick, to populate "Jane's" world.
If the TV star-studded cult comedy sounds like "Earthquake" meets "Pink Flamingos," Latt is anything but. "I'm pretty normal," insists the director, who wed Little in a Jewish ceremony after attending interfaith couples counseling in 1994. "I look like an accountant. I have weekly Shabbat dinner with my folks." Plus, he's never watched an entire "Jerry" episode: "It's too scary," he says. "These are people I don't want to exist in the world."
But Latt wasn't above making his "Jane White" actors do a "Jerry"-like scene or two. Wil Wheaton of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" lip-syncs to "The Partridge Family"; "Saved By the Bell's" Dustin Diamond lisps in bearded drag.
"It was surreal," Latt says. "I was meeting these TV people I'd idolized, and they were doing bizarre things like getting slapped on the a--."