John Carpenter is a true legend. The director is a man many consider one of the great filmmakers of all time, certainly in the realm of genre pics. His resume includes the pinnacle efforts of 70’s and 80’s sci-fi and horror – “The Thing”, “Halloween”, “They Live”, “Escape from New York”, “Christine”, “Assault on Precinct 13”, “Big Trouble in Little China” and of course 1980’s “The Fog”.
Now, in Hollywood’s endless attempts at remakes, Carpenter has not only allowed but is producing a redux of his original flick. Looking back at it the film isn’t exactly the most polished of his classic movies but it certainly is one of his most darkest and atmospheric. Earlier this year saw a remake of his “Assault on Precinct 13” released to generally quite good reviews and decent box-office, will this go one better? He and fellow producer David Foster talked with a group of online press in Vancouver recently about that very possibility:
Question: Why remake The Fog?
John Carpenter: Why not? If everybody else is making remakes and they want to pay me money to make a remake of an old movie of mine, why not? It’s a good idea.
David Foster: And it’s so much more advanced, too.
John Carpenter: Seriously, it’s–that’s part of the answer, but my ex-partner Debra Hill, who just recently died, has been trying to get this off the ground. We hooked up with David here, who finally did get it off the ground, and it was kind of nice for her to see this being made.
Question: Can you talk about the key differences between this version of The Fog and the 1980s version?
John Carpenter: Well, the styles are different, the actors are different, the director’s different. It’s essentially the same story with some basic changes in it, but it’s fog and ghosts.
Question: Any of the changes you can talk about?
John Carpenter: I have been sworn to secrecy in that matter.
David Foster: I tell you one thing John said to me when I asked about the first one. He said, “Well, I did it for $2 million and two fog machines.”
Question: Why did you decide to hand this over to another director instead of remaking it yourself?
John Carpenter: I don’t want to remake this. I mean, I did it once. This was not my favorite experience of my own career, making The Fog. It was difficult. We had to go back and fix it once we shot it. I’ve done this once, so let some younger person do it.
Question: So why not go back and do it right the second time?
John Carpenter: Well, I just explained. I don’t wanna…
Question: What’s your role in this production?
David Foster: Producer. He produces.
John Carpenter: Well, I am a producer, but I come in and say hello to everybody. Then I go home.
David Foster: We listen to him a lot. He obviously knows what he’s doing when it comes to scaring people. And this should be a scary movie. In truth, I must talk to John at least three or four times a week. Sometimes I’m griping; sometimes I’m happy. But we listen to him . He gets crazy when you say it like master that he is.
John Carpenter: Please stop.
David Foster: See, I embarrass him, and I know it would embarrass him, but it’s true. He has a great sense, and it’s difficult for him to talk about that, you know.
John Carpenter: I’m just a fucking bum, OK?
David Foster: No you’re not. You’re a good friend and a smart guy.
Question: Speaking of masters, what’s going on with Masters of Horror?
John Carpenter: Well, it’s a little series that we’re doing for Showtime. Each of us has an hour to shoot in 10 days. The first director they got was John Landis, but he’s now way over budget and way over schedule. So there may not be any more Masters of Horror. He may do them in. Dario Argento starts next week. They pushed me later on the schedule because they’re going to take all the money out of my show and put it into everybody else’s.
Question: Now, you’re listed as a writer for the film…
John Carpenter: Which film?
Question: The Fog, but so is Cooper Lane. Why did you choose Cooper Lane as a…
John Carpenter: I am?
David Foster: Well, to be correct about it, John and Debra get credit for originating the first screenplay, not this screenplay. The credit for this screenplay, so we don’t get in trouble with the Writers Guild of America, is solely by Cooper Lane.
Debra was not well when all this happened. As John said, he’s done it once. He made it very clear he didn’t want to do it again. And so we hired this bright, young guy and he’s done a wonderful job, so he gets the sole credit for writing this version.
Question: Anything in particular about him that got him hired, besides his brightness?
David Foster: You know, he wrote a fabulous script for me…
John Carpenter: Talent.
David Foster: Yes, talent.
John Carpenter: An important thing.
David Foster: He wrote a wonderful script, actually, The Core, which was an original screenplay. I happened to like the picture a lot, but it didn’t do very well. I think I know the reason very clearly. It opened the week that we invaded Baghdad and everybody was home watching CNN and no one was going to the movies that week, so that was our fault. But it was a wonderful script.
He wrote another that Warner Brothers bought, a Western called “Hell Dorado.” He’s just a really good, talented, fresh new writer. John and Debra read some of his work before we hired him because they had to approve of him, and everybody agreed that he had a good take on it. The rest, as they say, is history.
Question: Given the inconsistent success of recent remakes of horror movies, was there anything that you were insistent remain in the original or insistent that they change to update it or potentially improve it?
John Carpenter: In the case of The Fog, it’s a pretty fireproof idea in terms of what happens. It’s an old ghost story. The idea in this case is to freshen it up. As a cultural mindset these days, it says if anything’s over 15 years old, it’s old fashion and old school, but we sort of heard of it. Audiences have maybe heard of it, so the thing to do is to take it out and prop it up and put some–a fresh coat of paint on it and see how it goes.
David Foster: And we have popular, young actors too, which was a very specific plan, you know. Tom Welling is really popular with the young people. “Lost” is a very popular series with all kinds of people. Selma, who’s also young but not a television star, she’s sort of blue to the young people, you know. It was a very calculated thing. These pictures succeed or fail based on the young people who are going to the movies, and mostly young girls.
John and I did (well, he did, I went along for the ride) The Thing, which was a horror film. It was a great film, I think, and we’re now going to do a miniseries out of it for the Sci-Fi Channel.
John Carpenter: Which you promised me some money from. Where is my money?
David Foster: That’s their money. It’s not my money. It’s Universal. Go talk to them.
John Carpenter: That’s what I thought.
David Foster: Yeah, well, it’s them. It is them.
John Carpenter: Yeah, I know.
Question: The original Fog didn’t really skew younger in the way that this version does. What do you think has changed in the world of horror since the original Fog came out?
John Carpenter: That’s a different era. It was 1979 when we made that, it’s just a whole different time now. We didn’t have the Internet. Thank god we didn’t have computer generated graphics, and the whole celebrity showbiz thing was different then. It’s a different time and horror movies and science fiction used to be portrayed with older folks in them, a little more mature I should say.
David Foster: Vincent Price.
John Carpenter: Oh, yeah. But no more.
Question: I was wondering if you have anything to do with the score on this one, and if not, if you think it will be similar.
John Carpenter: Well, first of all, no one’s really asked me to do it yet, but…
David Foster: That’s not true.
John Carpenter: I know that’s not true. You’re right. The best thing–I think the easiest thing for all of this is to take the first score and have someone freshen it up Everybody’s getting freshened up, so why not? I’d love to, it’d be great. On the other hand, there are a lot of really interesting composers right now doing movies for low budget, high budget. It’s really an interesting time. So it’d be also fun to see what somebody else’s take on it would be.
David Foster: We actually talked about taking his original score and having a contemporary arranger dig into it and contemporize it. I’ve actually asked John if he would consider doing a new score, and he said he might. No definitive answer. Then there’s other composers out there. As he said, some young, new guys out there. So we truly are more intrigued with taking the original score–it seems that everybody knows that score somehow–and just adding a contemporary feel to it.
Question: You mentioned something, a comment a couple of minutes ago about “thank god we didn’t have CGI back in the day.” So that begs the question, for this particular outing, are you going to employing CGI to help recreate The Fog, or are you going to be using a combination of things with CGI? How are you going to handle that?
John Carpenter: The Fog is going to be dealt with in a couple of different ways, practically and with computer graphics.
Question: OK, so a combination.
John Carpenter: Yeah, to help us out there. But see, I don’t think CGI in and of itself is very scary. Creatures don’t look too scary; they look fake. Things don’t move; they move too fast. There’s no inertia and so…
David Foster: It’s interesting. One of the studio executives–I don’t know if you were there the other day when I was talking to Derek–he said he saw a picture and he felt he was so aware of what was CGI and what was real, and he preferred the real.
John Carpenter: I shudder to think what The Thing would look like if we had to do it with computers. Honestly, it wouldn’t work.
Question: I shudder to think what the cast would be today.
John Carpenter: Oh, but they could do a good job with that, there are some good actors.
Question: You all talked about sort of getting a younger cast, appealing to the younger moviegoers, so can we take from that that the movie’s probably going to be PG-13 rating? Is what you’re shooting for?
David Foster: Yep, PG-13.
Question: Okay. Was there any sort of, not creative compromises, but sort of creative solutions you had to find to kind of bring across the horror you wanted to to make sure that it wasn’t too splattery?
John Carpenter: The horror I wanted to?
Question: Or David…
John Carpenter: I’m just a producer on this. I sit at home and watch basketball games on TV. These guys go out and make this movie, all right? It’s designed to be a PG-13 film.
You know, horror’s really changed a lot. It used to be much more hardcore. Today it’s drifting towards PG-13 and you know, getting girls in, and girls don’t like yucky stuff. You know what I mean?
Question: Did you have any final say on the script? I mean, from what we saw down there today, did you approve that, put your stamp on it?
John Carpenter: I read it. I liked it. But you know, the script has evolved. It keeps changing as you make a movie. Look, my own philosophy is it’s a director’s film. It’s not my film anymore. I made my film back then when I was young and happy. This is a new director and he’s bringing his point of view and his sensibility to this film. I have a real hard time telling anybody else what to do or interfering with their vision. You know, it’s his movie now.
Question: But doesn’t it concern you with your name attached to it, that it might taint what you did the with the classic original, which is one of my five personal favorite films, and that if fans really hate this movie or dislike it in anyway, that…
David Foster: They’re going to love it.
Question: They may love it, but if they do dislike it, does it worry you that your stamp is on it?
John Carpenter: Nothing worries me anymore. Nothing. No, what are you going to do? What are you going to worry about? Why worry?
Question: Well for example George Romero had nothing to do with the Dawn of the Dead remake so if it stunk it wasn’t his problem and no one cursed him for it.
David Foster: No one’s going to curse John for this. I mean, it’s a Rupert Wainwright film.
John Carpenter: The original is not one of my favorites of my own movies. It’s okay. It’s okay. No matter what he does, it’s great. It’s great.
Question: How does the budget of this one compare with what you had for the original, and where is the money going?
David Foster: None of your business (laughs)!
John Carpenter: That’s a good answer.
David Foster: Huh?
John Carpenter: Good answer. We had $1 million and they have a whole lot more than we did, a whole lot more.
David Foster: Well, everything’s more expensive now. Actors are more expensive; directors are more expensive; CGI is expensive.
John Carpenter: Living is expensive; buying cars is expensive. Everything. The whole world has changed.
Question: But by today’s standards, is this still considered a low budget film?
David Foster: No. Modest.
John Carpenter: What, do you mean $200 million movies? Compared to that it’s low budget, yeah.
Question: Is there any idea of thought in your mind of doing a sequel or building on Big Trouble in Little China?
John Carpenter: Since that movie tanked, I don’t think they’ll ever do a sequel.
Question: But knowing that because it’s reached a cult status since and that there is a market there, there is an audience for it, would you do it on a smaller budget or something on a smaller scale that would definitely, 100 percent be profitable?
John Carpenter: That’s another one of those things. I’ve done that once. I don’t want to do that again, let somebody else do it. Plus, I don’t own it. You know, I don’t have any stake in that, so…
Question: I read on the IMDB that you were inspired…
John Carpenter: On the what?
Question: On the Internet Movie Database.
John Carpenter: Thank you very much.
Question: …that you’d been inspired to do The Fog from a British movie called The Trollenberg Terror.
John Carpenter: Crawling Eye, huh?
Question: The Crawling Eye. Have you ever been interested in remaking that?
John Carpenter: You know, I never thought about it because it’s such a ridiculous title. I remember seeing that movie when I was a kid and I was really impressed with it.
David Foster: What’s the movie?
John Carpenter: Well, in England it was called The Trollenberg Terror, in this country they released it as The Crawling Eye with Forrest Tucker in the lead.
David Foster: Oh, my God.
John Carpenter: British film. They did a TV series on it, and that’s where it came from. It was really interesting. It comes from the Quatermass stuff. I’d do it if somebody asked me. I’ve always wanted to do X the Unknown again. I thought that was a great film. I love that movie.
Question: I’d like to know about the comic book tie-in, and do you guys know anything about that? Will it be like a “Tales from the Crypt” sort of looking and feel?
John Carpenter: I have been sworn to secrecy on the comic book. But I just saw the cover.
Question: Oh, were you impressed?
John Carpenter: I was unbelievably impressed. Very beautiful, very nice.
Question: But it is a prequel?
John Carpenter: Oh, way, way, way prequel. I mean, a way, way, way, way prequel.
Question: What does Rupert Wainwright bring to this creatively that you thought he was the right person to tackle this?
John Carpenter: Energy. His style is vastly different from mine. He uses–I don’t know how to put this–he uses inserts and close-ups to add texture and energy to his movies, which is totally different from the way I work. That would be an interesting try on this film. See what we do.
Question: I was just curious if there was a remake you have seen that you thought was better than the original. I mean, the only one that always comes to mind to me is The Thing, as far as being superior to the original.
John Carpenter: I don’t know about that. The original Thing is pretty great. That was a great film.
Question: It’s a fun film. I liked it too, but–
John Carpenter: I liked the American version of The Ring better than the Japanese version. I thought they actually improved on it. It still doesn’t make any sense. It’s not a sensible plot, but there were some things about the American version that I thought worked better; the tabs, the timing, the tempos, the style was a little bit better, I thought.
Question: So with the Sci-Fi Channel version of The Thing, is that a remake or is that sequel or is that an extension?
David Foster: It’s a remake.
Question: And it’s going to be using CGI or just practical…
David Foster: I’m sure there’ll be CGI. We’re just getting the script in four hours, and we have the first night and then we’ll wing the second night. It’s not been green-lit yet. It depends on the second night’s…
Question: Is it all based on the comic series?
David Foster: Excuse me?
Question: I said is it all based on that Dark Horse series? Because I’d love to see that made.
John Carpenter: That would be a great, that’s a great sequel to the original movie, The Thing. Very well-done, well-written.
Question: Did you have anything to do at all with The Thing video game that came out?
John Carpenter: I’m in The Thing video game. I’m a character in it. You didn’t realize that? I’m Dr. Faraday and I get killed. That pissed me off, okay.
Question: Speaking of doctors, will there be another Dr. Phibes in the odd remakes?
John Carpenter: There was. You know, I’ve forgotten that. Alzheimer’s has started to kick in with me, so you’re going to have to remind me of all this stuff.
Question: In correlation to that though, there are actually a lot of nods in the original Fog., a lot of characters like Castle and Dan O’Bannon and the Dr. Phibes, so are there any other sort of like, in-jokes or nods in this film? Anything extra…
David Foster: Same names. Same characters’ names. I wanted to change them actually, but everybody said, “No, no.” Everybody knows those names, so why fool around?
Question: Is there going to be a lighthouse in this one?
John Carpenter: God, I hope so. I’ve seen it in film; I’ve seen it in the dailies. Unless they cut it out, there should be one.
Question: Was a real location used–a real lighthouse somewhere?
John Carpenter: We can not divulge that information; it’s a secret.
David Foster: There’s a lighthouse in the movie.
John Carpenter: You tell them too much David. Don’t tell them…
David Foster: But I didn’t tell him how or where or why.
Question: With the train of directors lately going back and tinkering with their work, reediting, re-imagining, not actually remaking, but just doing re-releases, is that something that interests you or do you just like to…
David Foster: The director’s cut.
John Carpenter: God no. If I’ve finished a movie, that’s my movie. I don’t want to fuck with it. These guys don’t have enough to do? They want to remake their own film. See, I don’t understand it. It’s insane.
Question: We’re going to get back to the anthology series. You said that you’re going to be doing it, but you didn’t tell us anything about the story or the idea for it.
John Carpenter: The story was written by Drew McWheeney. Do you know who he is and his partner? He was Moriarity on the Ain’t it Cool News? He’s writing the screenplays. It’s called “Cigarette Burns” and it’s something, you know, I’ve never seen anything else like it. Really unique. We shoot it in 10 days. I’ll be shooting in July at some point. As I say, the first director up was John Landis. Last night I had dinner with Dario Argento, he’s the second one up. They’re going to kick the crew’s ass, so by the time I get there, you know, it’ll be fun to do. It’ll be a lot of fun to do.
Question: You mentioned that The Fog wasn’t particularly one of your favorite of your films. What is your favorite film?
John Carpenter: I think probably The Thing. That was one of my real favorites, you know, just because. I don’t know why. Just because. It’s the darkest.