Nigel Lythgoe is now best known in America as a fixture of reality competition shows, serving as a producer on American Idol and a judge on So You Think You Can Dance. But the most interesting credit on his IMDB page is choreographing one of the most garish, gaudy, and inexplicable films ever made: Menahem Golan’s faux-futuristic, pseudo-Biblical, nigh-unfollowable 1980 rock musical fantasy, The Apple. A cult favorite today, the film was a career-besmirching, money-hemorrhaging bomb when it was released 35 years ago. Showing an admirable sense of humor about his past foibles, the pain obviously cushioned by his subsequent success, Lythgoe recently talked to Yahoo Music editor Lyndsey Parker about the strange, doomed production and his involvement therein.

During the interview, Lythgoe displays the equanimity that comes only with time. “I mean, it’s laughable now,” he now admits. “And it’s fun to make fun of it. But at the time, it was really, really depressing on some days. Very, very stressful.” Apparently, though they loved the film’s music, the cast and crew of The Apple were not terribly keen on Menahem Golan’s incoherent script, based on a story by Coby and Iris Recht. And being a choreographer in those days presented its share of unique-to-the-period challenges, thanks to the easy availability of drugs. “It was like herding cats, trying to get those dancers together,” Lythgoe recalls. “Yes, it was a strange 1970s experience.”

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Still, he was naive enough in those days to have sky-high hopes for his work on The Apple, even thinking he would win an Oscar for his choreography, not realizing such an award is nonexistent. And what did Nigel Lythgoe learn from working on one of the most infamous bombs of the 1980s? “Make sure that you’ve got a complete idea in your head when going from point A to point B, rather than preambling around and then just losing the plot halfway through the movie.” That’s solid advice for any generation.