The Arrow interviews Mick Garris
Class act Mick Garris knows a thing or two or three for that matter about horror author STEPHEN KING. How much? Try: SLEEPWALKERS, RIDING THE BULLET, THE SHINING (TV) and the once proclaimed un-shootable by the industry film adaptation of THE STAND which he managed to shoot and successfully at that. Captain Mick's next King to screen (via a TV mini-series) venture is DESPERATION (tentative May 2006 release). I just finished reading the book and totally loved it! And if I go by what Mick reveals in this interview, we'll get a faithful adaptation that just might run us over like the Goblin Truck from Maximum Overdrive. Lets talk DESPERATION, you got the floor Mick!
What was it about the DESPERATION book that grabbed you by the lapel and made you say; ďI got to do this!Ē
MG: This was something that King and I had talked about doing for a long time. Originally, we planned to do it as a widescreen, big budget feature, to really go for the throat. I just saw it as something that didnít worry about being transgressive and aggressive. At the time, all the genre films were about teenagers, with a lot of winking at the audience.
I saw this as an opportunity to just go balls to the wall with horror. And I loved the idea of a desert horror film; desert noir is one of my favorite film genres. A while before, King had turned me on to a movie called RED ROCK WEST, which I think is a masterpiece. I thought maybe this could be a horror version of a desert noir. Or desert blanc, since much of it takes place in the day.
The book is fairly violent (especially when having to do with children); how much of the nastiness that is on the page has made it into the finished film?
MG: A lot. And a surprising amount, considering that this was made for commercial broadcast television. That said, it doesnít mean we wallow in blood and entrails, but most of what you read in the book is in the movie. Itís an intense book, and everybody knew what they were getting into. And if they werenít prepared to stretch the envelope a bit, then they shouldnít make DESPERATION. Of course, I believe that if THE SHINING miniseries we did had be theatrically distributed, the violence in the last hour would have gotten us an R rating.
Stephen King wrote the Teleplay for the film. Has he stayed close to the book as he did with The Stand? What will be the major narrative differences from book to screen?
MG: Itís very faithful to the book. Just about everything you remember from the book will be in the movie. Of course, itís tightened up a bit, and itís a movie, and movies arenít books, but itís pretty damned close.
I must commend you on your Grade A casting. The only surprise I had was Ron Perlman as Collie Entragian. What made him the perfect Entragian for you?
MG: Ron was the first guy I ever thought of for the role, and he really nails it. King is particularly happy with his performance. I had worked with Ron on SLEEPWALKERS, and I knew he could bring a really dark, powerful, nasty sense of humor to the role. He has tremendous range, and is able to switch gears in a heartbeat. He had to be an imposing and intimidating character, but also with some weird wit and humor. And Ronís a very funny guy. You should see him do his Jerry Lewis impression.
The Stand was (in my opinion) your most ambitious work to date (where you actually managed to adapt that mammoth book into a great filmÖkudos). Was Desperation as much of a challenge to shoot as The Stand?
MG: Thanks. THE STAND was the most difficult production Iíve ever faced. DESPERATION comes in second. The only reason itís second is because it was a shorter shoot. THE STAND was eight hours; DESPERATION is three. But there are a lot of similarities between them. They were both made with extensive outdoor production, with tons of animals, physical effects, makeup effects, visual effects, driving, stunts, and a large, ensemble cast. And kids.
Everything thatís difficult about making movies was present in spades on both films. And we were forced to work six day weeks on DESPERATION, which, of course, really means working a seven-day week. DESPERATION was a very difficult shoot, despite having a cast that I loved and a story I was eager to tell. We never had an easy day. The simplest might have been recreating Saigon, which had a couple hundred Asian extras, a giant explosion, and some other major action. Nice and easyÖ
Stephen King often has cameos in films made off his novels. Will he have one in Desperation?
MG: Heís not in this one.
Will there be a ďDirectorís CutĒ or ďUnrated CutĒ of DESPERATION when it hits DVD or will there only be the TV Cut out there?
MG: There really isnít anything that we shot that I wanted in the film that isnít in there. The network basically said yes to my cut, other than a couple tiny things that really donít matter to the telling of the tale.
Would you say that adapting so much of Kingís work for the screen has its perks and drawbacks in terms of your career? If so, what are they?
MG: The perks are obvious; I get to work with one of my best friends telling stories almost any filmmaker would kill to tell. Working with King is just about as much fun as filmmaking gets. The down-side is this: not only am I christened a ďhorror directorĒ, Iím only a ďStephen King horror directorĒ. Sometimes that can limit the opportunities available to me as a filmmaker.
Congratulations on getting Masters of Horror together! Gathering such a massive pool of talent under one roof must have been quite a feat! For those of us who donít watch TV, will there be a DVD release of the Episodes? If so when?
MG: Iím really excited about MASTERS OF HORROR. The shows will come out on DVD next year.
Whatís the next cinematic bullet that youíre aiming in riding? Whatís next?
MG: I have no idea what Iíll be doing next; Iíve gone from RIDING THE BULLET to DESPERATION to MASTERS OF HORROR without a break. In fact, they all overlapped one another, and Iím a bit exhausted. There are a bunch of projects that look interesting to me, but Iím not committed to anything yet.
I'd like to thank Mick for giving some of it up for us. I am beyond excited about DESPERATION and May 2006 can't come fast enough! Recently Stephen King himself went on to highly praise the film in the media...he rarely does that. That for me is a solid omen that we're in for something special...bring it Mick...BRING IT!