Rob Zombie Reveals Universal Pictures Fired Him After First ‘House Of 1,000 Corpses’ Screening

Filmmaker Rob Zombie attends "The Lords Of Salem" Premiere during the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival at the Ryerson Theatre on September 10, 2012 in Toronto, Canada.
Jag Gundu / Getty Images

Filmmaker and musician Rob Zombie made an appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast Monday, taking part in a sprawling interview that covered the depths of his career. One interesting nugget the director dropped focused on House of 1,000 Corpses, his 2003 directorial debut that is considered a cult classic by horror fans, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter. While the film is beloved by many today, the film’s original studio Universal Pictures didn’t share Zombie’s vision at the time.

Once Zombie completed the film in 2000, Universal shelved the project due to concerns that the graphic content on display throughout the film would result in a NC-17 rating, rarely seen on major studio releases, preventing the film from seeing its release until 2003 under Lionsgate. While this was the assumed story behind the delay during the film’s release, Zombie opened up to Rogan and explained that it wasn’t just the gore and violence that put House of 1,000 Corpses on the shelf.

The filmmaker said, “I made the movie with Universal Studios and once we had the test screening — which I thought went great, but what do I know — the head of Universal at the time came up to me and said, ‘We have to talk tomorrow.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, man. That wasn’t a good tone.’ That wasn’t a ‘You’re so great we want to give you a five-picture deal’ voice.”

(L to R) Actors Chris Hardwick, Erwin Keys, Jennifer Jostyn, Sid Haig, writer/director Rob Zombie and his wife Billy Moseley, Erin Daniels, Rainn Wilson, Karen Black and Walton Goggins attend the premiere of "House of 1000 Corpses" at the Arclight Theatre April 9, 2003 in Hollywood, California. The film opens in theaters nationwide April 11, 2003.
  Robert Mora / Getty Images

In that talk the following day, Zombie was basically fired, with his film described as “unreleasable” and dumped from the Universal release schedule. Looking back on the event, Zombie did acknowledge that he could understand where the studio was coming from given Universal’s more family-friendly identity at the time, adding “horror movies were not even a commercial thing at that point, in a way.”

However, in an ironic twist to the story of Zombie’s relationship with Universal Pictures, Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Orlando will boast a House of 1,000 Corpses themed maze during the parks’ annual Halloween Horror Nights festival reuniting the Universal brand with a film it refused to release 20 years earlier.

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Zombie was well aware of the irony and found humor in the story of the film’s release coming full circle, saying, “I was there [Hollywood] for the grand opening and was like, ‘That’s funny.’ It’s like, I get fired from here and 20 years later, it’s a theme park attraction from the place I got fired from, which is so weird.”

The Universal attraction coincides with the release of 3 From Hell, which follows the characters from House of 1,000 Corpses, as previously covered by the Inquisitr. The film is currently on a limited theatrical release before it will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on October 15, 2019.