This past Saturday, I took a trip to Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors in Secaucus, N.J. and prepared to meet a legend in our creepy community, Mr. Steve Niles. Niles, for those unaware is what you might call a "Graphic Novelist," although perhaps the most refreshing thing about this easy-going man is that he refuses to call any of his books "novels." Time and time again, he refers to them as comics. You've got to appreciate that at a time when the trailer for 30 DAYS OF NIGHT announces that it's based on "the groundbreaking Graphic Novel," created by Niles and artist Ben Templesmith. Of course, I had to bring this up immediately after sitting down for our one-on-one interview...
What was seeing the trailer for 30 DAYS OF NIGHT like? It's pretty fantastic.
We were freaking out, because we waited. We didn't want to see it online, so Sony sent us over a copy, and we plugged it into the t.v. and I think we almost started crying. Because it's so good! It was the movie, and the movie is the comic. I was SO happy, because I wasn't involved with the shoot at all. I did the script, and then I've been holding my breath for five years.
You first wrote the script five years ago?
Um... 2002, 2003?
How did that work? Were you hired to do it?
Yeah, Raimi [producer Sam Raimi] hired me to do it, but I hadn't even finished the comic series yet, so we were sort've feeling around in the dark. The screenplay and the comic I wrote are pretty different. They have the same framework, but - it was all just trial by fire, it all just started at once.
Did you incorporate elements from the other 30 DAYS OF NIGHT comics into the screenplay, or is it pretty much just the first one?
There's some names, there are some different people that will show up, there's stuff from DARK DAYS in there. The Kitka's, who don't show up until RETURN TO BARROW, they're in it. It has Billy Kitka and his family in there...
The hardcore fans will pick up on these things...
Yeah. In that big oversized complete 30 DAYS OF NIGHT edition that IDW put out, I wrote the journal of a survivor who wasn't part of Eben and Stella's story, just someone who was hiding out in another house, who had murdered his family so the vampires wouldn't get to them... They [the screenplay's other writers Brian Nelson and Stuart Beattie] picked up his name and parts of his history and put it in the movie.
That's very nice.That's what was so great about working with the other two screenwriters, because they wound up adding stuff that I didn't realize was important. There's things that I see that are important, and then there's the fans who see something completely different.
What's it like having other screenwriters rewrite your work? Aren't you like, "Uh, this is MY story!"
Something really funny happened with both screenwriters. Look, I don't know what the rules are, I don't know if you're supposed to have contact with them or whatever - but [Beattie] called me, and we became friends. Immediately! So every time he was doing something, he'd call me up. I was in total contact with him, so I sorta knew where he was headed. The version he did, I thought, really brought it one step closer to the comic structure again. Then Brian Nelson came on - he's partners with David Slade, who had directed HARD CANDY, and the directing on that was fantastic, obviously, but I was also really impressed with the writing. I just loved it. So when I met Brian Nelson at Comic-Con, me and him became buddies!
I keep saying this over and over again, but it's been the exact opposite of every horror story that I've ever heard that came out of Hollywood. I mean, I'm not a producer on this, I just created it and had first shot at the screenplay. Besides that, they didn't have to talk to me ever again. It's just been great. I've got nothing but good things to say.
So the screenplay and the comic fell together around the same time?
I did develop it as a movie pitch first. When I was trying to pitch it, I was working at a bookstore in Burbank. And I was testing second-grade educational software - it was awful. That's no way to live... So I developed the idea, as a movie-idea and as a comic - but it had a three-act movie structure. I pitched it all over the place. Everyone passed on it. I would be like "vampires... in Alaska!" And they'd be like (shakes his head) "Mmm-mm." I don't know, nobody got it. My mind was boggled, because they would turn it down in two seconds. Then I remember being at Dark Horse, and Mike Richardson was the publisher, and I had the first issue, and like three other comics: there was a CAL MCDONALD thing, this thing FUSED, to which he was like "Okay let's do something with this." Then I was like "There's this thing with vampires in Alaska," and he was like "Eh, that's cool..." and we got two more books in, and then he all of a sudden said, "Wait, did you say vampires in Alaska?!" Again, why no one had done this before... it's incredible.
Had you seen HARD CANDY before David Slade became attached?
Right when Raimi was thinking about attaching him, Sam called me and left a message saying "Just check out this movie, it's great. I think we've got the guy for your-" (laughs) Sam cracks me up, he says "- for your 'pulp graphic novel!'" (laughs again) You can call it a comic-book man, you won't offend me, honest!
So at the time, I had just signed this first-look deal with Lion's Gate, who had put out HARD CANDY, so I called Peter Block and said "Can I see this?" It was at the point where they weren't even releasing tapes to people, they were really holding it tight. So I had to drive to Lion's Gate in Santa Monica and just sit in Peter's office and watch it. And I loved it. I called Sam afterward and said "Absolutely!"
What do you think of the cast?
My first idea was - I'm partners with Thomas Jane, and I always wanted him and his wife, Patricia Arquette. But I don't think Patricia would pass for an Inniut. (laughs) So I left it all in the hands with them. And Slade was really good, every name that came up, he'd run it passed me. When I first heard Josh Hartnett, the first thing I did was go out and get 40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS, and I was like "Ohhh no." Then I got BLACK HAWK DOWN and LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN, and I'm like "Okay, he's fine." He just needs the material. Especially for the role of Eben, you want this stoic, doesn't-say-alot kinda guy. And he gives off that impression. He's got that dark-featured look. Plus he's from Minnesota, so he's used to the cold. And Melissa George, I had not seen other than AMITYVILLE HORROR, so I left it up to them, and she's perfect - just a perfect Stella.
And how about Danny Huston?
Danny Huston is unbelievable. I think this is going to be the best villain we've had in a looong time. I just love that an actor of his caliber would take on this role, it adds so much to it. What he does - in the scenes - I mean, he's not nice to his food at all! He just mentally tortures them...
I have to ask you about your partnership with Tom Jane. Just a few days ago it was announced that he's directing a 3-D movie called DARK COUNTRY. What can you tell me about that?
We're shooting it in 2-D and 3-D, it's using all this great new 3-D technology. This is Tom's deal - as far as I was concerned, it was like "new ways to rip your retina in half!" because I've never seen a 3-D thing that didn't give me a massive f*ckin' headache. And Tom proved me completely wrong. He got me into a demo, they have these new glasses that aren't red and green, they're like these (points to his own eyeglasses), so everyone in the audience looks like Buddy Holly. (laughs) I saw this demo that was like these SWAT guys with laser rifles, and they come in and the laser goes right over your head, and you're like "Ahhh!!" Amazing!
But this movie is really more of a DETOUR/ BLOOD SIMPLE type thing, which I really like too.
It's not the obvious 3-D movie.
It's not obvious, there's going to be alot of shots in the desert in the middle of the night, in the car with just these people, and you can use 3-D to create real claustrophobia, because it'll feel like you're in a box, you're seeing all of the levels and everything! So seeing it applied to that kinda stuff I think is the way to go.
Is it supernatural at all?
It's supernatural/psychological. It's about a newlywed couple who mow down a guy in the road, and they put him in the back of their car. And he's not... quite dead.
Well they're trying to help and take him to the hospital, they didn't know he'd wake up mad! (laughs) Who woulda known?
Is the whole film 3-D, or is it the type of thing where a little caption comes up on the screen and says "Put on glasses now"?
The whole thing will be 3-D. Like I said, you can wear these glasses without eye-strain. And the effects are beautiful. Based on the footage I saw - concert footage, that kinda thing - it all worked beautifully.
What's immediately next for you?
Well, a lot of comic books, I'm doing a lot of stuff for DC Comics. Film-wise, I'm writing the screenplay for THE LURKERS, which is based on one of my comics and it'll star Tom Jane. And also, Tom and I just sold a series to the Sci-Fi Channel.
Cool, what's that called?
We have no clue!
A very special thanks to Steve Niles for taking the time to talk with me, and to Joblo.com and AITH for making it possible!