Here, in some exclusive excerpts from John Carpenter -
The Prince of Darkness a new book consisting of interviews with
cult director John Carpenter, is the man in his own words . . .
I was always a big fan of “absurdist” humor and Luis Bunuel. What I liked
most about, say, Waiting for Godot or those kind of works was not
their intellectual content but the fact that they were extremely humorous
to me. The idea that everybody is waiting for this Godot to arrive and
that he’s not coming today, the pointlessness of all that, struck my funny
bones. Waiting for Godot on the contrary never illuminated man’s
condition to me.
These guys are blowing up planets to create supernovas and I can’t think
of anything more mindlessly destructive. They are bored, their machines
are falling apart, and even though it was a complete fantasy, it seems to
me that Dark Star was telling some kind of truth regarding our lives.
“Waiting for Godot in outer space” was the best made-up I could
come up with.
ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK
We shot Escape from New York in the summer of 1980 in St. Louis
during an intense heatwave. The temperature would “drop” to 95° at
midnight. Two National Guard helicopters, painted to look like U.S. Police
Force choppers, had to land in a square. Fully costumed National Guardsmen
then had to jump out and run down the alley. It was so hot that the extras
were falling to the pavement, twisting ankles. One guy broke his arm. I do
recall also an episode involving Lee Van Cleef. Lee flew in from Los
Angeles for a one-night shoot, then flew out the next day. When I watched
the rushes I discovered to my horror that some of Lee’s close-ups were out
of focus. But we couldn’t re-shoot – he had already left town – and we
couldn’t afford to get him back. So I was forced to use the out-of-focus
close-ups in the movie.
Anyway, the studio showed the movie [The Thing] to a focus group. After
this kind of screening you have a little discussion with the people
invited and they tell you what they thought of it. I attended the
screening – I never did it again. For some of them, the emotional content
of the movie was too strong, for others the monster was too strong, for
another the hopelessness of the story was too strong. Then one telling
moment happened. I was talking to all these kids when this young lady who
was about sixteen or seventeen years old said, “What happened in the end?
[SPOILER ALERT: At the end, the two surviving human
characters are sitting in the snow waiting for death to come – and maybe
for one to reveal to the other that he is “the thing”. END SPOILER!]
Who was ‘the thing’? What happened up there?” And I answered, “Well,
that’s the whole point! You never find out. You have to use your
imagination.” Then she replied, “Oh, God! I hate that.” That’s when I
realized we were doomed because I had forgotten one of the obvious rules:
The audience hates uncertainty.
I met with Tom Cruise. He was very charming. He wanted to do the movie but
he had to go make Ridley Scott’s Legend – and
Legend turned out to be way over budget and schedule. We would have
had to wait a year. I would have made the movie with him – I had no
problem with that. He was good.
Next: John Carpenter on They Live,
Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Village of the Damned, Escape
from L.A. and Ghosts of Mars
The Prince of Darkness
by Gilles Boulenger
296 pages, 6x9, B&W photos, plus 24-page color section
(distributed by SCB Distributors)
Pub. date August 2003