Through the Black Hole » MICK GARRIS – Interview

MICK GARRIS – Interview

Written by Tony Northrup

Many directors have brought the terrifying works of Stephen King to the big screen and television. The Master of Horror on the written page, has had many films adapted from his work by great directors such as Stanley Kubrick, Brian De Palma, George A. Romero, Rob Reiner, and Frank Darabont, just to name a few. However, there is one director who has captured King’s vision very nicely and many times Mick Garris.

Garris has been in the business for over 30 years. He started out as a receptionist for George Lucas, and also writing for the 80′s hit television series,” Amazing Stories”. He landed his first director’s job for,”CRITTERS 2″, in 1987. From there, Mick worked on PSYCHO 4:THE BEGINNING and wrote episodes for two other 80′s television series FREDDY’S NIGHTMARES and TALES FROM THE CRYPT. Mick won the 1986 Edgar Award for his work on Amazing Stories and in 2006, he won the New York City Horror Film Fest Lifetime Achievement Award.

Born in Southern California, and a fan of films since he was 12 years old, Garris has entertained us with his gripping storytelling, wonderful vision, and exciting flare for keeping the audience interested. He is married for many years to his wife Cynthia, who appears in several of Garris’s films. Mick Garris is nothing short of a talented director, and never ceases to amaze. His films are sometimes few and far between, but when he does get back into the directors chair, and behind the camera, it’s always worth the wait.

Mick has worked with King on many occasions. His first was the film from the early 90′s called,” SLEEPWALKERS”. It was soon after that King would ask Garris to direct his biggest and most popular novel, (after the Dark Tower series), known to fans world-wide as King’s Masterpiece THE STAND.  THE STAND was a four night mini-series on ABC, in 1994, watched by millions, and is still one of the most popular of all King’s adaptations. Garris has since gone on to direct other Stephen King works such as ,THE SHINING (the remake), RIDING THE BULLET and DESPERATION. Even though it’s been awhile since we’ve seen a Stephen King film on television, Garris has now brought us another of King’s best, and a fan favorite BAG OF BONES. This is a long awaited, exciting story that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

You can also catch some of Mick’s other recent projects on the Internet Trailers from Hell and PostMortem FEARNET. He is an author as well, with published works such as Development Hell, which is one of his current books. You can see the prequel to, BAG OF BONES, at Dark Score for a back-story, and history of the haunted lake in BAG OF BONES. To join the official Stephen King Fan page go to STEPHEN KING CENTRAL on Facebook. Based on the #1 Best-Seller by Stephen King, BAG OF BONES, is a haunted love story. Sometimes secrets are best left buried. For a bit of supense laced with terror, watch Stephen King’s BAG OF BONES on A/E Network, Sunday Dec. 11th, and Monday Dec. 12th, directed by Mick Garris. Check you local listings for the time.

1. In regards to, “Bag of Bones”, I once asked you,” What would you like to accomplish”, and you said, “…as passionate, frightening, and emotional a film as the book was…that resonates far beyond fear”. Do you feel you have accomplished that goal, and if so, how?
Well, that’s for the audience and the press to decide. It’s certainly what I tried to do, to do justice to the story King told, yet in the vernacular of film. Most important was to work with a cast, particularly a Mike Noonan, who would best reflect all the elements of the book’s depth. Pierce Brosnan was amazing, and great to work with. But it was also to try to construct a world of Sara Laughs and Dark Score Lake that is evocative and atmospheric, and to structure the colors and use of lenses and movement… all of the tools of filmmaking and storytelling.

2. Pierce Brosnan plays the lead character, Mike Noonan. What is it about Pierce that brings this character to life?
His incredible depth and warmth. His intelligence is obvious, and you completely believe him as a novelist. Much of this story takes place with Noonan alone, and he needs to be captivating, even when he’s not interacting with anyone else. He’s really smart and creative, and was unafraid to really go for it. He was a revelation.

3. Melissa George, (who plays Mattie Devore), is no stranger to horror films, (30 Days of Night, Amityville Horror). What was it like working with her?
I love Melissa. We first met doing a pilot we shot down in Australia years ago for the WB called LOST IN OZ. A friend, and also a lovely, really smart, really talented woman. I know it sounds like PR fluff, but this cast was completely right, and every one of them was just right in this… as well as great to collaborate with. And I can’t imagine anyone else in these roles. Not a diva in the bunch, and that’s saying something.

4. You have worked with many verteran actors. What did legendary actor William Schallert, who has been in the industry since the 1950′s, bring to his role as Max Devore?
We knew we didn’t want to hire a younger actor and put him in old-age makeup. There were a few ideas we had, but once the idea of Schallert came up, we were all enthusiastic. He has the perfect face and bearing for the wicked Max Devore, even though he is most well-known for more benevolent roles. He’s a very nice man, and though he has some physical limitations, he really committed himself to the part. It’s great to have someone with the breadth of experience that he has, with a face that is so expressive. Old age prosthetics can be very effective, but nothing like having a real face, real flesh and blood, and a long history of performance to inform it.

5. You have worked with Composer Nicholas Pike, 11 times during your career, there’s obviously something about his style you find compelling. Do you feel he has captured that special feeling with the score for Bag of Bones?
Nicholas is a very impressive composer, and a really kind human being and good friend. When I rolled the dice the first time, on my first movie, the timeless classic CRITTERS 2, he just blew me away. He had a 40-piece orchestra and the score sounded huge and Copland-esque. Everyone I’ve introduced him to has worked with him, including Michael Jackson, who hired him to do an orchestral score with a 90-piece orchestra for GHOSTS. BAG OF BONES was particularly challenging, as it had to be scored in so little time, as our post-production schedule was so compressed, and there is so much music there. And it’s great. You’d think he had all the time in the world. Very evocative, with wonderful, memorable melodic lines, as well as great atmospherics.

6. Mick, I am one of the co-administrators, and a contributing writer for Stephen King Central, the official fan page on Facebook. We had a contest where the winner gets to ask you a question of their own. Richard Teevan of Massapequa, NY asks: ” How much do you let the books, story, author, and fans of the book, influence your film?
First of all, I am a huge fan of the books. If you’re adapting a book, there’s a reason. That said, and King knows this better than anyone, books and movies are different media. A good book isn’t necessarily a great blueprint for a movie. But I do believe if you have a beloved story, it deserves respect. And I’ve been lucky with the material I’ve had to adapt. Yeah, it’s really important and gratifying to have King happy with the material, and surely the fans for the source material, but mostly it has to be a movie that works on its own terms, and reach an audience that hasn’t read the books. They all influence me, but as a fan myself, I have to feel that I’ve done the best I can to make the book into a movie.

7. In school, you memorized Samual Taylor Coleridge’s, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, why did you pick that, and has it influenced your career as a filmmaker?
Not really. It was a school assignment. Just some lines that you can pull out that sounds good in an interview. Poe’s “Annabel Lee” is the one poem I still know by heart. Which I memorized in junior high.

8. You were known as a big comic book collector in your youth. Did reading comics inspire you in any way to become involved in the film industry ? If so, do you have a favorite comic book you would like to do as a film ?
I actually wanted to make animated cartoons when I was a kid. I loved comics, but as an adult I must admit that they don’t engage me much these days. I wasn’t a serious collector; I just bought piles of them, of every kind. But I sheepishly admit I was a DC guy more than a Marvel one. My dad studied art, and created a couple of comic strips that never saw publication. Drawing was the first thing that interested me, but once I started writing, I gave up drawing. So no, there’s not really a comic I am dying to put on the big or little screen.

9. Tell us a little of what it was like filming for 39 days in Nova Scotia. How did it lead to the quality to the film?
The good thing is that it is so geographically similar to Maine, where the story is set. The weather there is often terrible, and affects everything, since we shot so much on locations. But it allowed us access to wonderful lakeside locations for Dark Score Lake, a spectacular setting for the 1939 Dark Score Fair, as well as a wonderful setting for Sara Laughs, Mike’s lake house, where so much of the action takes place. It is not really a deep production center, which meant a lot of the crew and tools and technology were not as readily available to us as they might have been in LA or even Toronto. But it was a great group of talented and enthusiastic people. It ended up being the perfect place to shoot it. Not easy, mind you, but it really was the ideal background for a pretty complicated film.

10. Stephen King asked you to direct, ” The Stand” , years ago. You have also adapted several of his other novels to film. Now that you have finished, “Bones”, can we expect future King projects from you? If so which would you like to do next?
Nothing is planned, but nothing is more fun that working with King, or on one of his projects. But I would really love to do GERALD’S GAME.

11. How much was Stephen King involved with the making of this film?
Often he’s a producer or screenwriter on the adaptations I’ve done. On this one he’s neither, so he wasn’t really involved. He had some approvals over director and some key cast members, and as a friend I made sure that he got all of the dailies to watch, but he wasn’t officially involved in the production of BAG OF BONES.

12. There is a lot of gore and special effects make-up in this film, tell us how difficult it was to achieve that certain look you were going for?
It was a little more complicated this time, because the studio budget required us to use a Canadian company, rather than my usual crew at KNB. But we were really fortunate to get Adrien Morot and his crew out of Montreal. Again, the rush in preproduction and production was very taxing for them, but they did a really remarkable job. I love what they were able to do. Anika was cast at the last minute, when they should have had at least a month to work on her makeup, but you’d never know it. I had seen and admired Adrien’s work before we met, but it was a great experience, and he really pulled off a magical feat brilliantly.

13. Your other King mini-series films have always been on network television. What advantages, if any, are there to airing , ” Bag of Bones “, on A/E, which is a cable channel?
Well, cable is different, but A&E is basic cable, supported by advertising, and not nearly so liberal in terms of censorship as pay cable, like HBO and Showtime. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how successful we were at getting everything we wanted in the film that will be broadcast. When I turned in my cut to Broadcast Standards, they didn’t have us change a thing, and there’s some pretty tough stuff here. The rape and murder of Sara Tidwell is powerful, unpleasant, and pretty uncompromising, as are some other moments here. But the network didn’t blink, and I’m really happy with how it’s all turned out. It was much more lenient than broadcast TV, like ABC, though we had some pretty good luck there, too, with THE STAND and THE SHINING. But mine isn’t the last word. The audience will either bless or curse us. All digits are crossed for the former.

I would like to thank Director Mick Garris for taking the time out from his busy schedule to do this interview. I hope those of you that read my column have enjoyed this little departure from my regular reviews, and will enjoy watching this two part mini – series. I look forward to being able to bring you other special features again in the future.

Posted in Cinema and Interviews by Tony Northrup on December 12th, 2011 at %I:%M %p.

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