Caffeinated Clint Greats : Interview Series


What is Caffeinated Clint’s Greats?
I’ve had plenty of emails from you guys asking such questions as “Who were your favourite actors growing up?”, “Do you have a favourite movie?”, “You’re producing films now, any particular film that inspired you to take that road?” and “Hey man, Got Kristen Stewart’s phone number?”, and it gave my an idea – why not profile some of my favourite films? (It saves me from flaming a pimply, unintelligent publicist or another fresh-from-junior-high exec over some harebrained remake he’s just greenlit for a couple of weeks, after all) and in doing so, why not make contact with some of the people from these films?

Today’s Favourite Film Profiled :

Title : Near Dark
Year : 1987
Director : Kathryn Bigelow
Starring : Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Tim Thomerson

Best Vampire Movie Ever. There, I said it. “The Lost Boys” comes a close second. But while “The Lost Boys” was more of a hip teenage rock n’roll thriller, “Near Dark” was a frightening vampire ‘western’ – for the adults. My VHS copy of “Near Dark” is sitting in the garage over there somewhere – – and it’s worn to bits. That’s how many times I’ve watched it. If you’re not a fan of Kathryn Bigelow’s vampiric masterpiece, why not!?

Q&A with Eric Red :

There’s countless reasons why I still claim the ’80s were the best decade for cinema (well, the ’70s and the ’80s) – but to name but a few reasons, films were less about money and more about merit then, John Hughes and Don Murphy were still alive, William Friedkin had yet to cross paths with Joe Ezsterhas, the target market for a blockbuster was the audience not Tom Rothman, and, quite frankly, Eric Red never left his Remington.

Red, as my fellow thirty-something’s (and the younger, more film-savvy readers) will recall, was one of the “It” writers of the Reagan-era, he brought us such gems as “The Hitcher”, “Near Dark” (the best vampire flick ever made – Someone called ‘Jacob4eva’ is bound to send me an email now) and “Blue Steel”. Red, and Shane Black, were the go-to guys for most action or horror movies in the ’80s – and everyone else in the same vocation paled in comparison (though much love to Jim Kouf, too). But then, just like Black, Red disappeared into the night like Batman. … but Hollywood’s got such a woody for reboots right now, that the Eric Red story is about to be remade.

While I dip that umbrella in your drink, tell me a bit about how my beloved ”The Hitcher” came about? Hard sell?

Took just a few months. I sold it from Austin, Texas after moving there from New York without having any contacts in Hollywood before I came here. And it got made 6 months later. It was a storybook situation for a young screenwriter.

That’s almost unheard of these days. I’m suspecting what loved about your script was that it didn’t encompass much of a back-story for the character of John Ryder – he was just a frightening bloody enigma!

Yeah. there was never any back-story for John Ryder in the script because it gave the character a mystery and mythical edge. Sometimes it’s better to not explain the reasoning for this kind of psycho character, because it is scarier and makes people think. To paraphrase John Ryder, the audience are smart kids, let them figure it out.

And did it rain offers after “The Hitcher”?

Yes, but I could afford to be selective. I wrote a sexy Klute style thriller for Flashdance producer Jon Peters at Warners that didn’t get made, but had a great time going to Paris on the studio dime and doing ride arounds with the French police La Crime unit.

Nice! Wee! But that didn’t happen, so what did?

I also wanted to direct so I wrote Cohen and Tate – it set up quickly and I directed it for Nelson Films and Hemdale. Got a chance to work with major star at the time, Roy Scheider who will always be one of my favourite actors. And cast him in his first bad guy hit man role. It’s still one of the better pictures I directed, but unfortunately like most of my others had major distribution issues.

I want to go back to “The Hitcher” just briefly, were you ever approached to be involved in the direct-to-video sequel or remake of it?

No, I turned down The Hitcher sequel because at the time I could honestly have cared less. Looking back with more maturity, it may have been a mistake only because some quality control could have been maintained. I received lead writing on The Hitcher remake by default, because the W.G.A. determined the original script was not changed enough.

How was it working with Kathryn Bigelow on “Near Dark” – the most underrated vampire flick ever made.

We had a ball. And the two others we wrote over that period, Blue Steel and Undertow also got made. I directed the latter for Showtime in the 90’s with Lou Diamond Phillips, Mia Sara and Charles Dance and it was the second highest rated original movie on the network that year.

“Blue Steel” isn’t too shabby either – Ron Silver is brilliant in that flick. Speaking of, an actor you were apparently never that hot on was Adrian Pasdar, from “Near Dark”. True?

In my opinion, Pasdar wasn’t a leading man, so subsequently the vampires upstaged the hero and the film was thrown out of whack. Johnny Depp screen tested for the role with Patricia Arquette and was awesome. Also D.B. Sweeney was up for it. Don’t recall why we didn’t go with them and it could have been for numerous practical reasons not creative, but for me the role ended up miscast. Pasdar is a fine actor though and does some great work.

And how long after “Near Dark” was it that you were approached to write “The Lost Boys” prequel? And how far did that actually progress before Warners decided it wasn’t gonna happen?

I was gearing up for Body Parts and Lauren Schuler Donner and Joel Schumacher approached me. It was the film I was going to and should have directed after Body Parts because a high end sequel like that would have been perfect for my career at the time. I spent a solid year with Joel developing the script and put a lot into it. As everybody knows now, it was a prequel that showed how the vampires in the first film got that way. My idea was we set it in turn of the century San Francisco. Alas, Warners didn’t pull the trigger.

It was such an awesome script, too. I was recently speaking to someone involved in the “Lost Boys” sequel that was filmed (“The Tribe”) and they said ‘If only we could’ve filmed Red’s script’.

And what was the deal with “Flatliners 2”? Can you tell us the storyline, since it never happened?

In my story, a group of young international convicts, criminals, rapists and killers with much worse sins than the first kids, volunteer for an international space organization experiment. Keifer Sutherland’s character has developed a cryogenic hypersleep capsule for long distance space travel where people are frozen and reactivated, i.e. killed and brought back to life, and they need human subjects to test the technology on. The new kids get put down much longer than the kids in the first film. And of course much worse horrors and sins come back with them. The third act is a fantastic voyage to the land of death where the convicts go on a rescue mission to bring back one of them from the other side, but some don’t make it.

Cool. And while on the topic of unproduced scripts, there’s a rumour you wrote a draft of “Alien 3”?

That’s the one script I completely disown because it was not “my script.” It was the rushed product of too many story conferences and interference with no time to write, and turned out utter crap.

Which brings us to now. Obviously you’re working on smaller projects these days – some of you which you direct yourself. Are you happier now? Or would you like to return to work on the ‘biggies’?

I’m not working on smaller projects. 100 Feet was roughly the same production budget as my other pictures like Body Parts and Bad Moon, which had roughly the same production parameters as The Hitcher and Near Dark. The difference was the films I’ve directed have been terribly distributed, so did not attract the same attention and have had to be discovered by audiences. That is a very important thing for people to understand. You can make the best movie in the world but if they don’t market it isn’t going to reach an audience.

It’s one of the bitches of the business – distribution. Film of ours is supposedly available on Amazon – but click to order it and you won’t be able to… it’s been out of stock for months. (Turns tape off). Were you happy with how “100 Feet” turned out – and consequently performed?

100 Feet is the best film I’ve directed so far. It succeeds keeping the audience on the edge of their seat in what is basically one woman in a house with a ghost set up. The goal for me with that was to do a picture that relied on suspense and thriller technique rather than kills. People constantly tell me the film scared the hell out of them and they never knew when those scares would come. That was the goal. But 100 Feet never got a chance to perform. That would have required a proper release where it played in theaters, which it would have had because there were several domestic theatrical offers from major distributors. Instead, they went another way, to the film’s considerable disadvantage. Even the DVD release got screwed up. And the film deserved better. But despite all that, people are slowly seeing the film. There’s 100,000 ratings on Netflix, which is indicative of something. Glad I got the chance to made the picture though. It’s like what director Robert Aldrich said. Your pictures will be discovered in your lifetime, after you’re dead, or not at all. Once you realize that, you just focus on doing the best job you can.