John Carpenter, seen here on the set of his new film 'The Ward,' is heading to Toronto for the Midnight Madness program on Monday night.
Credit: Echo Lake Productions/A Bigger Boat
I consider John Carpenter a friend, and I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be able to say that.
What you're about to read isn't a particularly hard-hitting piece of journalism. I've written two films that John's shot in the last few years, "Cigarette Burns" and "Pro-Life." Both were for the "Masters Of Horror" series. My writing partner and I have talked to him about various other potential projects to make, and we're all three determined that we're going to figure out what the right film is, and as soon as we do, we're going to make it.
This is just me talking to John about his return to the bigscreen, something that's long overdue, and him being uncommonly kind. I'll be there Monday night to see "The Ward," and I'm speaking as a longtime fan when I say that I hope it's awesome and a complete return to form.
No pressure... right?
This conversation took place via phone one day last week, as I was sitting at home at my desk. Phone rang, I turned on the recorder, and... well, this happened:
John Carpenter: Is this the legendary and blindingly handsome Drew McWeeny?
Drew McWeeny: Rumor has it that this is John Carpenter, legendary horror film filmmaker.
John: Hey, dude. What’s going on?
Drew: Not much, sir. Getting ready for Toronto and I can’t wait. I think it’s going to be a great, great week.
John: Now, why haven’t you guys written me a great screenplay? What’s going on? I haven’t heard anything from you.
Drew: We are maybe ready to talk to you about something. We’ve been working on a script real, real hard.
John: Oh, I bet. Nothing ever happens.
Drew: Yeah, yeah.
John: Well, I loved, you know, I love the stuff that you write. You guys write great shit.
Drew: I'm speaking as a fan when I say I am excited to have you back on the big screen, and you know what the first question I’m going to ask you is: is it scope?
John: Is it what?
Drew: Is it in big beautiful John Carpenter widescreen 2.35?
John: You know what? It is. But it’s sort of a cheese-bag widescreen.
Drew: But it is John Carpenter widescreen, right? Been waiting a long time for that.
John: We shot it flat and we’re scanning it for anamorphic, so it’s not quite as good as shooting with a real Panavision lens. Not quite as good.
Drew: Not quite as good, maybe, but still... I’m going to be in the theater seeing John Carpenter scope again. That’s very exciting. What was this script to you? When did you find this one? What was the thing that hooked you?
John: Well, you know, it was after working on the projects that you and Scott [Swan] wrote that I actually thought to myself, "Y'know, this is fun again. I don’t mind this."
Drew: Well, good. I’m glad to hear that, because I certainly had so much fun doing them, and obviously, I had heard that the experiences you’d had before that were not the best experiences for you. To see you enjoy the process, it only makes me want more John Carpenter movies at that point. It’s like, "Well, he’s enjoying it. It seems like this is going really well."
John: You know what? That convinced me. Working on our two projects together convinced me, "You know what? I think I might go back and try this again. I want to go back. And I really enjoy being on the set." It was really fun and it reminded of why I got in this business in the first place. I had forgotten about it.
Drew: I think you have a great crew up there [in Vancouver] and especially when you have some history with them the second year, it really is just a smooth experience. They’ll do whatever they can for you at that point.
John: It’s true, and I know the whole business is really a lot of fun. So I thought, "Well, hell, I’m ready to try this again," and along came this little movie that was a little film in terms of it's not a big budget movie. I don’t have to kill myself over it. I can have some fun with it, and it’s working with really young actors. And female actors and that’s fabulous. I love that.
Drew: And you have a big bench of talent in this one. Amber Heard. Lyndsey Fonseca. There’s a lot of really strong young talent in this movie.
John: Oh, boy. Oh, boy. I mean, I’m just delighted with them, too.
Drew: Now, where did you shoot this one?
John: We went to Spokane, Washington. They have a... there’s always some sort of tax deal, you know? That’s what it’s all about these days.
Drew: Sure, of course.
John: It’s money, it’s money. And they had some sort of deal up there that made it very cool to come and shoot. And we shot at a mental institution, which was also a whole lot of fun.
Drew: Isn’t it great to be in an area that hasn’t been used in 9,000 movies because most places, like, every location has been shot by somebody? If you’re here in L.A., good luck finding a new square inch of L.A. to shoot, you know?
John: I know, but you’re also home here, see? That’s a part of it.
Drew: Well, true. True, but...
John: You’re right about that, and we found a sweet... we went into this hospital. I'm sorry, I mean "looney bin." And we were in one of the abandoned buildings there, and out the windows we could see where they kept the dangerous prisoners.
Drew: That’s got to create a bit of an atmosphere on-set for you.
John: Of course it did! And the whole thing was we had to be aware that if there was a lock-down, in other words if somebody escaped, we had to follow all directions and we had badges and stuff. So they built a fence around us to kind of protect us from the dangerous folks there, so... it was kind of cool.
Drew: So, are you going to actually be in Toronto for the movie?
John: My plan is to be there, but I have a reason why I may not be there, and that’s because of jury duty.
Drew: Oh my God. (laughs)
John: You can’t fool around with that.
Drew: You tell them you’re going to the Toronto Film Festival, please? "I’d like to go with my movie."
John: Sure, but they don’t care. You’re not going.
Drew: Have you ever been to see something at the Ryerson at the Toronto Midnight Madness?
John: I never have. No.
Drew: It’s an amazing... it’s a great hall to see a movie in, John. It’s one of those places where the whole crowd is down for the midnight programming, and they come rowdy. I think you’re Saturday night, right?
John: We may be Monday night.
Drew: Monday night. It’s an amazing thing every single night I was there last year.
John: Oh, really?
Drew: It’s a fantastic crowd. It really is, to me, the only other place besides the Austin crowd where I felt that energy. So it’s great.
John: Austin's like Mom and Dad for you at this point. That’s the only reason you like it there.
Drew: Well, you know, Toronto or Austin. At this point, John, that’s the best place in North America to show your movie.
John: It is?
Drew: It really is. Are you going to Fantastic Fest?
John: Where is Fantastic Fest?
Drew: Fantastic Fest is in Austin at the end of this month. They have not finalized their lineup yet and, sir, you would be an amazing addition to Fantastic Fest. It’s…
John: I’m going to some place in Orlando, Florida. I don’t know about Austin.
Drew: Oh, it’s an excellent place to show this kind of film.
John: Is it?
Drew: Yeah, it really is. I think it’s the best festival that I’ve been to in the past couple of years consistently, just in terms of programming and guests and the kind of things they show. World class….
John: That’s an endorsement.
Drew: Yeah. It’s something else. Well, I hope to see you in Toronto, sir. Now tell me what you'd tell some kid who's never heard of John Carpenter, who doesn't get what he's about to see... what would you tell that kid to get him to see "The Ward"?
John: Well, for me, this movie is all about story and character. A lot of movies that don’t care enough about that these days, I feel. And this movie is about that, and of that I’m very proud.
Drew: That’s awesome. It’s exciting to have a horror film to look forward to that is a classic old-school horror film from a guy who has had his energy rekindled, man. I can’t wait. I’ll talk to you afterwards and…
John: Listen, I expect some projects coming my way now from you.
Drew: Like I said, we finally got something with some people that we’re very, very pleased with. Thank you so much for taking the time. We’ll talk in Toronto, I hope.
"John Carpenter's The Ward" premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival Monday night at 11:59 at the Ryerson. And you couldn't keep me away if you tried.
Can't get enough of Motion/Captured? Don't miss a post with daily HitFix Blog Alerts. Sign up now.
Don't miss out. Add Motion/Captured to your iGoogle, My Yahoo or My MSN experience by clicking here.
Not part of the HitFix Nation yet? Take 90 seconds and sign up today.
Become a fan of HitFix on Facebook.
You can e-mail me at email@example.com or follow me on Twitter, where I'm DrewAtHitFix.