The Arrow interviews Joe Harris
Comic book writer, screenwriter and director Joe Harris broke into the "big boys" scene via his short film "Tooth Fairy" which, tagged along with a pitch to Revolution Studios, jumpstarted what would become the moderately successful feature film "Darkness Falls". Arrow had few things to ask the "lad" and here's what he spat back in return.
1- Whatís your favorite horror movie?
"The Omen".†But that was a later-in-life kind of thing for me, so itís probably not fair to call it my favorite.†I grew up on "Halloween" and "Friday the 13th" sequels (loved those, saw the third in 3-D and all that). I also dig "Phantasm" and even have a place in my heart for the B-ones like "My Bloody Valentine". Iíll go with "The Omen".
2- Which writers/directors have you looked up to throughout your own evolution as a writer/director?
Oh God... from a pure writing standpoint, not talking screenplays or movies or anything like that, I worship at the church of Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, Incredible Shrinking Man, etc.).† Iím a novelist/screenwriter Richard Price fan. Comics, the usual suspects including Alan Moore and Frank Miller. But you want the movie guys, right? Iím a Scorsese freak. Phillip Kauffman (The Right Stuff, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, etc) is one of my favorite filmmakers.† I love Richard Donnerís earlier movies (including The Omen, obviously) and the early John Carpenter films.†
3- "Darkness Falls" was based on your short film ďThe Tooth FairyĒ. Who first noticed the short and how did it finally get to the studio that made it all happen as a feature?
I was at the San Diego Comic Con (where I go every year, at times as a guest comic creator) two years ago.† I had written a five-page script for a twisted and disturbing short and pitched it to John Fasano who was there representing DistantCorners.com.†He thought it was a great idea and urged me to consider developing it as a feature.†Distantcorners ended up financing the short film which I would direct and would use it to later help exploit the feature script I was hired to write.†From there, producers Fasano and John Hegeman pitched the project to Revolution who loved it and asked if William Sherak and Jason Shuman could come on board. From there, a director was hired and I was flown out to Los Angeles to complete a new draft of the screenplay. From there, things, as they say, rolled.
4- Will we ever get to see "The Tooth Fairy" short on which the feature film was based? If so where? I heard maybe the DVD.
Hmmmm... could be.
5- You share writing credits on "Darkness Falls" with John Fasano and James Vanderbilt. Can you tell us in laymen terms...who wrote what?
Specifically?†Not really... but I can try and give you a breakdown on how my writing translated. I created the Tooth Fairy, obviously, dating back to the short.†I first introduced Kyle, Caitlin, Larry, etc. Kyle was stalked by the monster, was falsely accused of killing his sister (I believe) in my drafts and returned to town (then called Stoney Point) where a vengeful Tooth Fairy resumed killing those whose path Kyle crossed.†I first wrote scenes like the police station slaughter of the cops, the lighthouse finale and the preceding car chase to get there though everythingís been embellished since and itís all sort of presented via a blender at this point. My ending was cooler though.†Check out the commentary track by Fasano and I on the upcoming DVD release for the details.†And Iíll stick by that conclusion until the day I die.
6- I know that during the "Darkness Falls" shoot you were somewhat kept in the background. Did you have any kind of creative input on set in regards to the direction that the film was taking?
None whatsoever.†Welcome to the gloriously powerful world of screenwriting, Joe!
7- Seeing the final cut of the film now, how do you feel about it and what would you have done differently narrative, or aesthetic, wise?
I want to be diplomatic and wonít comment on the movieís final cut.†I think, like a lot of movies, Darkness Falls suffered from too many hands trying to steer the ship.†It was sold and written, initially, with one type of movie in mind. Then changed in hopes of being something else... but when that didnít pay off, the studio wanted something closer in line with what was originally intended. That being said, I think everyone did a very good job at getting this thing in shape and out there.†It did really well at the box office and should do very, very well on video and DVD... so more than a little something went right. I would have preferred the original Tooth Fairy design, myself (who wouldnít?).†
8- You have a new short in the works called ďGrandmaís HouseĒ. Where are you at with the film? Any intentions of getting that one to transcend into a feature too?
Iíll be shooting Grandmaís House in the spring, most likely... although I may be directing my first feature and that would take precedent. And yes, of course, I have plans to adapt GH to a feature!
9- Iím assuming Darkness Fallsí success has opened up some heavy doors for you. So whatís next on your plate in the feature film domain?
I donít want to go into it yet, honestly... weíre waiting for the right time to announce. But I have signed a deal with a studio to take on a famous 80ís franchise that needs some horror and love. Yes, doors have opened.
10- Youíre also very involved in the comic book world as a writer, having contributed to X-Men, Wolverine, Spider-Man and The Tooth Fairy prequel comic.† What are your upcoming projects in ďcomic landĒ?
Iím currently writing a Hellboy/BPRD special for Dark Horse which my friend and creative partner Adam Pollina is going to draw.† Itís a fun, twisted story focusing on Abe Sapien and some monsters that live under childrenís beds.
11- Be honest; how many figurines of the McFarlane "Tooth Fairy" toy do you own?
I think Iíve got four or so kicking around the apartment right now.†Goddamn, theyíre great toys. I donít think I was ever prouder than when I arrived at the San Diego Con this past summer and saw the sculpts at Toddís booth.†The Steve Wang-designed Tooth Fairy is the most original movie monster in some time. What I meant to say was... Iíve got four left.† Everyone got one for Christmas, from me.†I live to give, man.
12- You live in New York City; a jumpin' city at that with an awesome night life. What would you say are your three favorite goodies that your fair city has to offer?
In no particular order of importance: Peter Luger Steak House (the absolute best steak in North America, according to the NY Times), The New York Yankees (the greatest sports franchise in history) and the finest, finest women the world has to offer.
I'd like to thank Joe for kicking it on the site. Hopefully Grandma's House's eventual feature film adaptation will come out a tad more badass than "Darkness Falls". Kick that bootie on that one Joe and all of your upcoming films (I hear "Children of the Corn 8" might be one of them)!