AICN LEGENDS: Quint chats with John Carpenter about Halloween, The Thing, Big Trouble In Little China, Escape From New York and More!
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. It’s been an amazing couple of weeks for me. My last two interviews were with my favorite living filmmakers. My chat with Steven Spielberg focused on Jaws and this AICN Legends chat with John Carpenter was meant to focus more on his overall career, something I found impossible even in 45 minutes.
When I got the wrap up alert from the publicist I had just gotten to Big Trouble In Little China… and that was even skipping over Christine, Elvis and Starman. There’s some good stuff in there about Halloween and The Thing, but damn. The man’s filmography is so full of gold that even 45 minutes only scratches the surface.
So, while I don’t have any commitments from Carpenter and no real idea if I can get him on the line again, I’m still going to call this Part 1 of my AICN Legends chat with John Carpenter. What can I say? I’m an optimistic guy.
Nobody has had a run like Carpenter. From Assault on Precinct 13 through They Live (and I’d even argue through In the Mouth of Madness, but that may just be me) the man turned in nothing but good to fucking great movies. And in multiple genres.
Hope you guys enjoy this Part 1 chat with the truly legendary John Carpenter where we talk about Kurt Russell, westerns, Donald Pleasence, Rob Bottin, Jed the Dog, Ennio Morricone, Goblin, Jack Burton, Rob Zombie, how underappreciated Halloween III is and why I piss him off. Enjoy!
Quint: I actually want to start with ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 if that’s alright.
John Carpenter: Sure.
Quint: I know that that’s been compared to RIO BRAVO quite a bit and I know that you have a huge love of westerns and I love the results of you kind of adapting western formulas into modern thrillers or genre pictures. You have kind of made a unique stamp out of that, but do you think you will ever get to do a full on straight up western?
John Carpenter: I’ve learned in this business that you never say “never” about anything. I did many times in my career to my regret. “I’ll never do this. I’ll never work for this person again!” Blamo, here I am… I’m actually working right as we speak on a little gothic western, but not your traditional western; not a RIO BRAVO or RED RIVER or anything like that, but I am working on a gothic western. I don’t know if it will get made. In these times you never know what’s going to happen.
Quint: That’s exciting. I mean RED RIVER itself almost feels like a horror movie if you look at it. That’s what is really interesting to me about a lot of those older westerns is you can take out the threat of the Indians and make it zombies and it’s the same story.
John Carpenter: [Laughs] Okay, I see… Alright.
Quint: I was just watching a movie I believe is called FORT MASSACRE and that one really did. It felt like a zombie movie. It’s all about a group of cavalry men who are separated from their unit and so they are trying to get back to their unit while they are in Indian territory. They need supplies and all of this stuff and the supplies are surrounded by Indians… It really is as if you could just replace Indians with zombies and you have a modern day horror movie.
John Carpenter: Yeah.
Quint: But that’s really fascinating. I’m really curious about that film. I hope you get it off the ground.
John Carpenter: Well, we will see.
Quint: Something I really love about Halloween is that right off the bat you kind of tell people that this is something different with that great steadicam shot. Was that intentional or was that kind of the necessity of the lower budget?
John Carpenter: [Laughs] Was it intentional that I shot it in one shot like that?
Quint: Well, of course it’s intentional that you set it up that way, but was it intentional to use that as the way to kick off the film; to tell the audience Halloween wasn’t going to be your typical genre movie?
John Carpenter I don’t know if I was thinking “Hey audience, this isn’t your typical horror film,” but you have to understand I was classically trained at USC, so the inspirations for my films and for my style and technique were all from classical directors, so I went back to TOUCH OF EVIL and films like that.
You could say “Was Orson Welles trying to tell the audience that ‘this melodrama is different, because he has this big long tracking shot?” I don’t think that was his intention, that was the best way to tell the opening of the film, so that’s the way I looked at it.
Quint: You’re right, there is a lot of history with that kind of filmmaking, like Hitchcock’s ROPE as another one where it just seemed a very interesting way to tell that story.
John Carpenter: And SCARFACE, Howard Hawks’ SCARFACE has an opening shot that goes on for a long time, so you know it’s been done. It was challenging for us on the budget that we had to pull it off, but we managed to do it. Maybe it was the fact that that was an unusual technique for a low budget horror film.
Quint: In a lot of those instances, not in all of them, but in a lot of those exploitation films there’s not really an emphasis on the visual storytelling, it’s just about getting the money shots on the screen you know?
John Carpenter: I agree with you there. Sure.
Quint: And something else that you did extremely well with the movie is cast it, which is something you have had a great eye for throughout your career.
John Carpenter: Thank you. You know, anything that you find good about my work I would ascribe it to luck.
Quint: (laughs) I don’t know, there’s a consistency there. Luck can’t be there every time. You know what I mean?
John Carpenter: Anything you hate, just say “He’s untalented.” That’s usually the way it works.
Quint: No, I don’t do that. I’m too big of a fan.
John Carpenter: Sure you can.
Quint: But I love your cast in HALLOWEEN across the board, from Jaime Lee as the lead to having a veteran like Donald Pleasence in the movie. Pleasence gives such a manic, shifty eyed performance. I love that the voice of reason is almost as insane as the thing that he is hunting.
John Carpenter: I agree with you. I love Donald and he was a real close friend. He did a great job for me. I’m not sure he agreed with the movie or agreed with what he was doing, but he did a great job for me.
Quint: How did you talk him into being in the film?
John Carpenter: Well, I asked him “Why are you doing this?” He said, “Well you know… I have an alimony to pay.” So, don’t ask that question too much.
He said that. He told me his daughter… This was in 1978, his daughter had seen ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 and had loved my music. That was the recommendation. My score from another film had impressed his daughter, so she told him he should work with me.
Quint: That’s awesome and you know that’s something again that is very unique to you specifically is you have a very specific visual style and you have a very recognizable musical style. Your scores are just as well known as your films. I’m a big fan of both, but especially your score for HALLOWEEN. It reminds me of the simplicity of John Williams’ main theme from JAWS or even Bernard Herrmann’s PSYCHO score. They were simple, but iconic, just like your Halloween score. What was the evolution of coming up with that score?
John Carpenter: You used the right word when you said “simplicity.” That’s my brain. It doesn’t go very far, it goes as far as it can go. My father taught me 5/4 time. When I was younger he bought me a set of bongos, believe it or not, for Christmas. He said, “Let me show you 5/4 time” and he pounded it out. (Carpenter vocalizes it and it sounds just like Halloween’s score)
So I remembered that, because I was pretty lousy at music anyway, but I used to score all of my films, because these were low budget films and I was cheap and it was quick, so I just did this little octave rock to 5/4 time. (vocalizes it again) I mean it’s really basic, but with this piano it had this dark little feel to it. It was a good, cheap way of getting the sound.
It was influenced primarily at the time by Bernard Herrmann who would get a maximum effect with very simple means. His idea was that PSYCHO… this was about a knife cutting up people. He used strings, high shrill sounds, to kind of represent the knife which I thought was just genius. Of course he was a genius, so that’s kind of how it evolved.
Quint: What’s interesting to me though is that you have the stingers and you have the typical horror cues to it, but then you also have something that I think is far more detailed and far more interesting in that you set a very creepy tone with the overall score.
John Carpenter: Thank you.
Quint: To me that’s the most important element. Tone is a huge thing with me for your films. One of my favorite movies of yours, and I feel it’s really underrated, is PRINCE OF DARKNESS.
John Carpenter: Thank you. You know I’ve heard that a couple of times recently. I agree with you.
Quint: I’ve talked to a lot of people and I’m like “Listen, you can look at HALLOWEEN or THE THING or ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and those are all amazing films,” but there’s a tone that you hit I think in PRINCE OF DARKNESS that gets under my skin more than anything else in your filmography. It’s hard for me to actually put a finger on it. It’s like watching a Paul Schrader movie. There’s something that instantly just in the mix of the visuals, the sound design and the story that kind of gets on to your skin as a film viewer.
John Carpenter: Well, thank you. You know as I recall at the time there was a television interviewer who said PRINCE OF DARKNESS was the worst movie of 1986. Worst movie. Worst.
Quint: Well, they were wrong.
John Carpenter: Well, not necessarily. (laughs) It wasn’t at the time so much fun to be the target of that, but I don’t care. It was a badge of honor for me.
Quint: Also look at something like THE THING. As I’m sitting here talking to you I have a framed one-sheet of THE THING hanging on the wall and I know that for most people, especially of my generation, they cite that as a huge influence. Especially up and coming filmmakers. You have to, I imagine, take some pleasure from that considering how unsuccessful that film was upon release.
John Carpenter: Oh, it’s better than the reception it received in 1982 I’ll tell you that! A whole lot better.
Quint: People today can’t really fathom that that film didn’t blow up the world at that time.
John Carpenter: No, it blew up ME at that time. Oh, man… I lost a job… My career was in jeopardy after that movie. It was serious. It was big time serious, but I made it.
Quint: Can we talk a little bit about that film specifically? You got to work with Ennio Morricone for instance, which I imagine must have been a huge deal for you as such a big western fan.
John Carpenter: It was kind of a dream come true. Well, he in general is a great composer and very unusual, like experimental type stuff, which I hadn’t really thought of until I started looking at his scores. He is really, really inventive, but yeah I had a great script. I had a great cast. I had Universal paying a decent budget and there you have it.
Quint: The cast is absolutely incredible, but something that strikes me every single time I watch that movie is that you get a performance out of that dog that can rival most human actors.
John Carpenter: That was Jed. He was the greatest. He was part wolf and is no longer with us, but he was incredibly smart. Incredibly smart. And we had to scale down the crew when we would shoot his scenes… well, because in fact he’s a wolf and so there was only a few of us standing around and he had to come in and we would be very still and he would sniff us to see if we were alright to get to know us. It was weird you know, “Well, here comes the wolf. Don’t move fast. Don’t make any noises. Be very still. Let him come to you and find out who you are,” said the trainer. “Okay, we’ll do that…” But yeah he was great. He was fabulous.
Quint: It’s weird, there’s a subtlety to that dog’s performance that really does blow me away. Every time I watch that film I notice it.
John Carpenter: He did this one shot… I’ve got to tell you… This one shot amazed me when we did it, when the camera was very low and tracking backwards down a hallway and we followed that dog and that dog looked in one door, he looked in another door, and then he looks in the third room and sees a man’s shadow and goes in. That dog never looked in the camera at us. It’s unbelievable that an animal could do that. It was unbelievable. I was speechless.
Quint: Did you have to shoot a lot to get that to work?
John Carpenter: No, he brought that to the day. It was unbelievable. I’m still in awe of that performance. Some actors have trouble walking and talking. I’ve directed actors who are walking down a hallway and can’t do it, but this dog was incredible… just amazing.
Quint: That’s awesome. What’s also a stand out of that film for a lot of people, myself included, is your work with Rob Bottin.
John Carpenter: What do you hear about Rob? You know, I’ve lost track of him over the years. I don’t know what he’s been up to. What’s going on with Rob?
Quint: I only know a little bit. I’m pretty friendly with Greg Nicotero and he talks to him occasionally. I know that he’s around, I just don’t think that he’s out there working?
John Carpenter: Why not?
Quint: That’s a great question. I have no idea. I would love to talk to him. He had an amazing run where he was just coming up with the most amazing effects. I love his work on Ridley Scott’s LEGEND and ROBOCOP… He did so much, in your film especially… I don’t know there’s just something so kind of twisted about what he can come up with and now he can execute those effects.
John Carpenter: Yeah, yeah.
Quint: I would love to know what he’s doing.
John Carpenter: Well, see you guys know everything, though.
Quint: No, we know very little. Haven’t you read our talkbacks?
John Carpenter: You know everything before the rest of us know it.
Quint: Some times. I will know when he’s signed on to do a movie, maybe. You know I went to the set of the prequel of THE THING that Universal is doing and…
John Carpenter: Oh yeah? How did it look?
Quint: From what I saw it looked good. I don’t know what the final product will look like. To me it really depends… You can do a lot of modernizing when you revisit something like The Thing, but especially since this is a prequel, they have to match your style and the tone and feel of your film if they want it to truly lead into it. The director told me that what he would like to do is he would love for audiences to end THE THING prequel and immediately start your film and have it be one continuous story. I think that they end this film with the Norwegian chasing the dog. I hope it works.
John Carpenter: Right, got it. Well, I know they have a photo of a very attractive looking girl with a flamethrower in her hands.
John Carpenter: Now how bad can this movie be? (laughs) I saw that and said, “This has to be great!”
Quint: I read an early draft of the script. I don’t know how much was changed, but it kind of surprised me how much I liked it because I went in there very cynically. I’m not opposed to remakes, obviously I love your remake, but I went in kind of with a “prove it” attitude and when I read the script it was actually very smart in how it took some of the conventions of your film and turned them on their head.
John Carpenter: Eric Newman is a very talented producer. I like him a lot and he has always been very nice and very forthcoming, so there’s a lot of intelligence behind the project.
Quint: He struck me as a genuine fan. He didn’t seem to be trying to do a remake or a reboot or a prequel just to cash in on a known property.
John Carpenter: This is Hollywood, okay. It’s about commerce. Let’s never forget that.
Quint: I don’t think he would have gotten the budget without that aspect of it, but I think at least his motivations aren’t just going for the dollar. You know, I saw you speak at Dragon Con way back when you were promoting VAMPIRES.
John Carpenter: Where?
Quint: It was in Atlanta, Georgia.
John Carpenter: Oh I remember that, sure.
Quint: That was right when HALLOWEEN H2O came out and I remember people were like “How does this make you feel?” and you were like “As long as the checks keep coming in, they can make as many sequels as they want.”
John Carpenter: That’s right, there you go.
Quint: I really kind of dig your attitude on this stuff where it’s just like “Listen, my work is going to be there...”
John Carpenter: What else am I going to be able to do, anyway? I can’t stop it; so if I can’t do anything about it, why worry about it? Take the check. I will happily accept the check.
Quint: Rob Zombie kind of took HALLOWEEN into a radically different direction. Do you ever look critically at any of that stuff or just accept it as it stands?
John Carpenter: That’s his film. I can’t do anything about it. It’s his vision of what he wants to do. Rob has a vision and he put it on film. You either like it or you don’t, but it has nothing to do with mine. Superficially it does, but it’s a totally different movie. I have not seen the HALLOWEEN 2 that he did. I don’t know. I’ve heard about it. I’ve heard that he’s trying to give an explanation for Michael Myers; a psychological explanation. I don’t know though because I haven’t seen it.
Quint: His HALLOWEEN 2 goes into some really weird places, but I actually liked HALLOWEEN 2 a little bit more than I liked his first one, just because it gets really weird, like there is this dream sequence with all of these pumpkin headed people. I would almost prefer that he would do more of that crazy stuff, but I’m actually quite fond of big change-ups in franchises. I’m actually quite a fan of what you guys did with HALLOWEEN 3.
John Carpenter: Me, too. I really like that movie.
Quint: I think that that’s slowly becoming accepted. I know at the time people were like “What? Where’s Michael Myers?”
John Carpenter: “Why isn’t he killing teenagers?”
Quint: The Silver Shamrock jingle is awesome and that’s actually kind of catching on with horror fans today. Halloween III seems to gaining some respect. What do you think about that? I know at the time it wasn’t accepted.
John Carpenter: No, it was not. I made everybody who put up money for it unhappy and that’s, of course, never very pleasant. I have no idea, my friend, I have no idea. I couldn’t figure it out when it happened to me on THE THING.
I was befuddled. “Why do they hate this movie (Halloween 3) so much? Why do the fans hate it?” Fans. I could understand some of the critics. I got that, but why do the fans think I just raped Madonna; the Madonna off the cross. Why do they think I just defiled a classic? I didn’t get it and I still don’t understand it.
Maybe it was because, very simply, I had had a success with HALLOWEEN, I was a young whippersnapper, and I had a success with THE FOG and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and it was my time to be brought back down to earth. “Who do you think you are?” That’s my thought. That’s the only thing I can figure out.
Quint: Maybe. I think it might be… If you had done that with the second film, maybe people would have accepted it a little more, but I think maybe having two films with Michael Myers, people just in their minds they said “This is now his franchise,” you know? What year did HALLOWEEN 3 come out? It was the early 80’s right?
John Carpenter: Oh Lord. God, I can’t remember… It was ’83? ’84?
Quint: So this is around the time that the audience is getting hit with FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 and 4 and Jason Vorhees is becoming this franchise thing. Maybe that was just the mentality at the time.
John Carpenter: Hey, man, I don’t know. I like HALLOWEEN 3. I like the story, especially weird evil Irish industrialists. It’s hilarious.
Quint: I love it. Again, there’s that kind of creepiness to it and I love the whole idea of targeting kids on Halloween with these crazy masks.
John Carpenter: I agree.
Quint: You mentioned ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. I really love that film as well. Obviously it’s such a great film, but what I love about it in the context of your filmography is that even though you had done the ELVIS movie and you had done more standard thrillers for TV, this is the first time coming off of your run of HALLOWEEN and THE FOG. Instead of staying within a very comfortable and supernatural genre you kind of break and that’s something I really love about your filmography; you can go from genre to genre easily and that’s something I think a lot of modern filmmakers have trouble doing.
John Carpenter: You think so? Really?
Quint: Yeah, I do. I don’t know if they are just not given the chance, but you seem to see a lot of people get locked into director’s jail these days unless they are Christopher Nolan.
John Carpenter: I know what you mean, but I don’t know why that is. I don’t get it, because a director… Anyway, what do I know? I know nothing.
Quint: Please if you have any thoughts on it.
John Carpenter: The only thought is a question. I don’t understand why things are the way they are, frankly, these days. I don’t know. I don’t understand it. I don’t understand a lot of stuff. I don’t understand why there’s another TRANSFORMERS movie. I don’t understand it, but I accept it. Can you explain that to me?
Quint: Just in the dollars and cents. I’ve talked to people, successful people, who have gone and pitched stuff and they literally talk to a person who plugs in numbers and genres in the computer and they say “You can make this kind of story with this actor for this amount of money.”
John Carpenter: Really… that cynically… wow.
Quint: It’s weird. It’s such a weird time for indie film…
John Carpenter: Why do you think that? See, you know everything over there at Ain’t It Cool News, what does that mean? Why is it weird?
Quint: For the indie film side it’s been a long time coming, but it was the 2008 crash that killed most of the hedge funds where a lot of indie filmmakers were getting their budgets from. I think some of the smaller distribution houses were hit then, too. If you noticed most of the indie arms of studios dissolved right after the crash.
John Carpenter: That was all basically because of the financial problems, right?
Quint: Yeah, the stock market crash. Things are starting to get better, but I don’t know at what point it will ever get back to where it was before.
John Carpenter: Yeah.
Quint: But yeah, let’s talk about happier things. You went from THE FOG to ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK if I’m not mistaken.
John Carpenter: That’s correct.
Quint: Was it a struggle for you to go to a studio and say “Hey, this is what I want to do next, it’s not a horror movie, but a kind of apocalyptic rescue tale…”
John Carpenter: Dude, every movie is a struggle. (laughs) There’s no movie that you can dial in and order a pizza… it’s not like that. I was working… I had a two picture deal with the studio and I was working on THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT which is a famous urban legend type story and it had great potential, but I quickly realized there’s no ending. There’s no third act… I mean I can devise one, but it was THE FOG! You know, where the sailors come back and get revenge. I was like “Well, I’ve just done that.”
So I went to the studio and I said, “Look, I don’t want to do this. I have this old movie in a drawer that I wrote in the 70’s that nobody wanted to make called ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK” and they said “Yeah,” so it was a movie that I had worked on years before, unsuccessfully, and so it was a little weird at first to try and get back into that, because I had completely lost interest after nobody wanted to do it. But Kurt [Russell] came aboard and… We had a great cast with really interesting cast and it worked out.
Quint The first person I got to interview for this Ain’t It Cool Legends column was Ernest Borgnine and…
John Carpenter: I saw him at a convention about a week and a half ago. He kissed me! He kissed me twice! He’s a great guy.
Quint: He was the most boisterous… I could have talked his ear off just about EMPEROR OF THE NORTH for an hour and he would have been totally down for it. (laughs)
John Carpenter: Oh yeah.
Quint: Escape from New York has got such a unique cast. I mean you have people from the old guard with Borgnine and Lee Van Cleef and then you throw in Isaac Hayes in there…
John Carpenter: (laughs) I know, I know.
Quint: And he’s perfect! It’s like I can’t think of a better Duke of New York. In the context of that movie he is perfect. And I want his car.
John Carpenter: Oh yeah. You know, when we were making ESCAPE FROM LA, Isaac called me and said, “Let me tell you why I have to be in it…” I said, “You are just dead. I killed you, what are you talking about? We can’t do that.”
Quint: Did he tell you why he had to be in it?
John Carpenter: I never got that far with him, because I explained to him “We can’t… That’s too much a cheat.” He passed away, is that correct?
Quint: Yeah, he died a few years ago I think. It was sad, but man he’s got a legacy, a great legacy in music of course, but I love him on the screen. He was great in TRUCK TURNER, but his role in Escape From New York is iconic. He is just so memorable in that film.
John Carpenter: I know. He was good.
Quint: And Kurt as Snake Plisskin as well. Snake is one of my favorite characters to come out of the 80’s, the antihero that…
John Carpenter: See I don’t see him as an antihero, I see him as an absolute hero. He’s just a little dark, that’s all. You know I never did ask Kurt “Are you really going to do Eastwood. Really? Really?” I didn’t ask him that, I just let him do it.
Quint: So, Kurt built onto that character more than what was on the page?
John Carpenter: Well you know it was originally written for Clint Eastwood. (laughs) So, that wasn’t hard to do. He came in with all of the ideas, the long hair, the eye patch, and Eastwood’s voice… well not exactly, but he had all of those ideas.
Quint: It’s interesting that the eye patch idea, because I have to imagine that that wasn’t all that comfortable.
John Carpenter: One he could see through, one he couldn’t.
Quint: Just so we don’t run out of time, I want to jump over to BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. I keep talking about the diversity in your filmography and no other movie shows that more than BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. It’s a very unique film. I can’t think of another one that’s like it.
John Carpenter: Well, thank you. That’s nice. I like BIG TROUBLE a lot.
Quint: It’s a dark fairy tale, but it’s not dark in comparison to something like PRINCE OF DARKNESS or IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS, but it’s definitely not your typical family fair that’s for sure. Again it’s the tone. Was that tone something that you found in W.D. Richter’s script?
John Carpenter: He’s a very quirky writer and a lot of the dialogue was Richter’s main contribution. Now this was an existing western before Richter rewrote it and he rewrote it as a modern day film.
You know, I went to film school with him and he was the professor’s darling. They loved him, which pissed me off a great deal. (laughs) I liked Richter a lot.
The studio wanted RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, clearly that’s what they wanted. They wanted a movie like that. “Can’t you just do that?” They didn’t ever actually say that to me, but I know that’s what they wanted. “Xerox it.” But I had other ideas and I thought it would have been interesting at least from my point of view, maybe nobody else’s, but to make the white lead… You know in the Tarzan films Tarzan is white and he always saves the natives. “Oh, thank you Tarzan!” It’s just ridiculous. I was like “What about if your white lead is a complete fool?” He has no idea what he is doing. He thinks he does… He’s this big blowhard. He’s kind of a John Wayne blowhard in the fact that he has no ability at anything, but he thinks he does and he rolls around and ‘Jack Burton says this,’ and talks about himself. And Kurt just went for it and of course to the horror of everybody at the studio. Absolute horror. They didn’t want THAT kind of comedy.
Quint: Well it was the horror to the people of the studio then, but not the people now as they press the 18th version of the DVD or the Blu-Ray and people buy it up.
John Carpenter: Too late! But it was not a pleasant studio experience. It was fun to shoot. We had a blast shooting the movie and working with all of the martial artists. You know, I was around in film school when the first martial arts craze hit with FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH. I began to see a bunch of them because they became popular. No matter what the fighting style was, the kung fu, there was an innocence to these films which was just absolutely delightful and that had to do with the kind of Hong Kong cinema, the way they movies and the way they saw things and the things they accepted as part of reality. They were just delightful, so I thought “Well, I would like to capture a little of that.” It was almost like a fairy tale in a way, so that was the approach.
Quint: If you look at your work with Kurt up until Big Trouble, he had always been a very strong hero that can get out of any situation. I liked that you turned that on its head a bit with the Jack Burton character, but yet somehow he’s still a character that fans revere as much as a Snake Plisskin in a weird way. It’s interesting to me to watch the cult of Jack Burton kind of spring up around this guy who is a giant doofus throughout the whole movie.
John Carpenter: Well, there is a little bit of Jack Burton in all of us. We are all Jack Burton, there’s no question about it.
Quint: You know the Alamo Drafthouse is doing an event here for They Live…
John Carpenter: I just did a visual hello to you guys.
Quint: Oh, that’s very cool. Have you seen Shepard Fairey’s poster for it?
John Carpenter: Dude, I held it up in the visual presentation. I love that poster.
Quint: It’s awesome isn’t it?
John Carpenter: Yeah.
Quint: I’m a really big THEY LIVE fan as well and that’s a movie that I I saw fairly early on. It’s been the kind of movie that has meant different things for me as a I have kind of grown up with it. The first time I watched it it was all about the aliens and the action…
John Carpenter: Hey, let me ask you a question.
John Carpenter: How old are you?
Quint: I’m 30.
John Carpenter: My god, you’re a baby. You are a child. This really pisses me off!
Quint: I’m sorry. I’ve been doing this since I was 15.
John Carpenter: I hate you. (laughs)
[The publicist interrupts with “Last question.”]
John Carpenter: Go ahead. Take your time.
Quint: We should probably use the last question for The Ward, since that is hitting VOD now. Is there a reason you didn’t score it yourself?
John Carpenter: Well dude, I found somebody better than me who actually did an orchestral score and I thought really brilliantly. Mark Kilian is a really talented South African composer. He’s done a lot of different kinds of movies. I met several composers in the money range that we could afford and damn he was just… He did stuff I hadn’t heard before. I did get him to do a little riff on SUSPIRIA. I said “listen to this…” We listened to SUSPIRIA, listened to (Claudio) Simonetti and you think about it, it’s this whole child’s mind thing that’s really creepy and we could use this, so he did a take. His is great. I just met Simonetti by the way.
Quint: Oh, really?
John Carpenter: Yeah, and I met the beautiful Asia Argento.
Quint: Yeah, I met her a long time ago when she was promoting that Vin Diesel movie XXX. She’s gorgeous.
John Carpenter: The only thing that pissed me off was that Eli Roth was with her. That pissed me off a great deal.
Quint: [Laughing] Why did that piss you off?
John Carpenter: I don’t know, there’s this young genius filmmaker walking in with this beautiful woman, it just pisses me off. I’m old now, what do you want from me?!?
Quint: Cool man, well thanks so much. I really appreciate you taking the time to kind of look back with me on this.
John Carpenter: Hey, it was fun.
See what I mean? I feel like I was rushing to the middle with this one, there’s just so much to his career. The recent Spielberg interview I think shows that it’s much better to focus on one movie and have some fun tangents to others, but I don’t know what I’d pick with Carpenter. I mean, I’m a massive, massive fan of both Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness, both films that don’t get talked about nearly enough, but the man also made one of the most influential horror films since Psycho in Halloween.
If I can wrangle another chat with the man, you better believe we’re hitting Prince of Darkness, They Live, Star Man, Christine and In the Mouth of Madness. Also I need to talk about his troupe… people like Buck Flower, Victor Wong and Peter Jason. There's so much more to discuss.
So, put the good vibes out there that the movie gods smile upon us for a sequel to this interview!
In the meantime, Carpenter has a new flick out on VOD this week, with a theatrical run coming soon. So, support the man and give The Ward a look! We want to see that "gothic western" someday, right?
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June 10, 2011, 4:35 a.m. CST
by Righteous Brother
to read this right now. But when I do, I'm gonna settle down with a nice cup of tea and enjoy it, I love John Carpenter, and really enjoyed Quints interview with the 'berg. See you guys in a bit.
June 10, 2011, 4:43 a.m. CST
Firstly, John Carpenter is as a god, and even though his post-THEY LIVE output is pretty lousy, he gets a free pass from me for life for HALLOWEEN, ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, THE FOG, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, THE THING, STARMAN, PRINCE OF DARKNESS and BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. You guys can keep George Lucas; Carpenter was the man who got me interested in making movies and I owe a career to the amazing films he's made. Always great to read an interview with him! And while I also admire his humility, I hope he remembers the amazing legacy he created at some point and gets back to his former glory!</p><p> Secondly, Quint, for shame! Lee Marvin was not in ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, it was LEE VAN CLEEF!!! You're telling me neither you nor Carpenter picked up on that one?!?
June 10, 2011, 4:56 a.m. CST
Armageddon - Ho-lee shit! What a fuck up! Thank God I didn't say Lee Marvin in the interview, just typed it that way. I know the difference, I swear! Fixed. Melon - I actually did this interview before the Spielberg one. After seeing how well that went off I wouldn't have tried to do a full career-spanning chat with Carpenter like I did here. Live and learn.
June 10, 2011, 5:03 a.m. CST
How do you think John Carpenter would have handled the Dark Tower?
June 10, 2011, 5:04 a.m. CST
It's just so sad that he's dropped out of the biz. An incredible talent, and so original! <br>Quint, if you track him down for an AICN Legends chat, it would be awesome.
June 10, 2011, 5:04 a.m. CST
classic line...+1 for that one
June 10, 2011, 5:06 a.m. CST
Shake things up! He's as big of a film icon as anyone. Quite possible the greatest song writer of the last 30 years. I'd love to know the kind of research he does for his stuff - it sounds so authentic. The ethnic stuff especially (french in beauty and the beast....arabic in aladdin, etc). and i really want to know if Disney forced the more modern sound for Tangled or if it was his idea.
June 10, 2011, 5:08 a.m. CST
He would have been amazing... but the dream I have is that somehow the mid-'80s John Carpenter (and his production team) could do a Halo movie. Can you imagine how awesome he'd handle the flood... of course Kurt Russell would have had to have been the Spartan.
June 10, 2011, 5:11 a.m. CST
I'd do that interview in a heartbeat. I have a little bucket list of AICN Legends interviews and you just added another name to it.
June 10, 2011, 5:15 a.m. CST
Nice interview, Quint. John Carpenter seems like a slightly spikier/crankier interviewee than the ever-affable Spielberg but I have respect for a man that's more interested in getting on with things than hearing praise. I know traditionally guys that work in his genre don't get much praise, oscars and baftas don't ever go to movies like ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK or THEY LIVE. But from me at least, John Carpenter, if you're reading this, you are a great film-maker. Thank you.
June 10, 2011, 5:16 a.m. CST
I don't understand either. Excellent interview, Quint, it's great to hear even a little bit from Carpenter about his work. I was just watching Big Trouble In Little China last night, and it's really true that despite being a screw-up for most of the movie, Jack Burton really is a kick-ass character. It's got to be his catchphrases like "It's all in the reflexes". To be fair, Jack did get to be the hero in the end by taking out Lo Pan.
June 10, 2011, 5:20 a.m. CST
with all its cthulhu-esque squiggly things... yet we've never even got region 2 dvd release. Now THAT's crazy talk. Anyone know why?
I'd also like to know if the alley that Roddy Piper and Keith David had their fight in had fake foam flooring, because it sure *looks* like real concrete - ouch!
June 10, 2011, 5:36 a.m. CST
I am curious to see how his involvement with FEAR3 has affected the quality and especially the horror effect of the games,since FEAR2 was a big disapointment.
June 10, 2011, 5:44 a.m. CST
I think it may be the only full score he did that he did not direct the film... am i correct on that?
June 10, 2011, 5:47 a.m. CST
was delving a little bit more into what music from the time period specifically synthesizer music influenced him to use those tools in his soundtrack work. I also wonder what he thinks of people later being inspired by his own synthesizer scores like Moroder's Carpenter influenced Cat People ost.
June 10, 2011, 5:54 a.m. CST
Hey Quint, the audio file about Jedd the dog is wrong, it's a repeat of the previous file (if i am not mistaken). Great stuff to read but couldn't top the one you had with Spielberg. That one was legendary! keep it up and greetings from Amsterdam!
June 10, 2011, 6:04 a.m. CST
what a terrific body of work
June 10, 2011, 6:15 a.m. CST
June 10, 2011, 6:21 a.m. CST
I know Carpenter says he hates it but fuck him, I love it. Nice interview Quint but some thoughts on working with the sorely missed Dan O'Bannon would have been a nice start.
June 10, 2011, 6:21 a.m. CST
Shame Carpenter was a little more glib than Spielberg but I guess you had so many questions regarding so many films that it was never going to be too in depth. Besides, I read a Total Film magazine once where they do a 'How well do you know your own movies' quiz and Carpenter's score was pretty much the lowest of them all - 3/10. I guess he doesn't do nostalgia too well. No matter though, definitely one of my favourite film-makers and a big reason I still rabidly collect and digest horror films to this day. Prince Of Darkness is one of my all time favourites too...too underrated, skilfully paced, absurdly creepy and that ending shot has haunted my nightmares. Throw in bug guy and Alice Cooper impaling someone with a bike and you have a classic on your hands! Also agree with Halloween III being somewhat of a gem. It was fairly well recieved in rental shops here in Ireland as it harkens back to the older Halloween traditions. Dan 'old man' O'Herlihy is a national treasure.
June 10, 2011, 6:30 a.m. CST
by Rex Carsalot
Seriously, these interviews are the high side of amazing.
June 10, 2011, 6:34 a.m. CST
by Righteous Brother
Dark Star, Assault on Precint 13, Haloween, Elvis, The Fog, Escape from New York, The Thing, Starman, Big Trouble in Little China - I absolutely love all those movies. Great to see Jed getting a shout out for his performance too.
June 10, 2011, 6:36 a.m. CST
by Righteous Brother
Buckaroo Banzai? They could be virtually set in the same universe - would love to see something like that today.
June 10, 2011, 6:44 a.m. CST
S'okay, Quint, the rest of the interview was great and very sound, I was just thrown for a loop on that one!</p><p> Carpenter definitely comes across as very broken in this interview, which is sad, especially in light of what I've heard about THE WARD. He's not even working with Kibbe (though, a poor replacement for Dean Cundey!), his trademark wide-angle Panavision compositions or scoring his own work anymore. God only knows what stuff he went through on MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN, ESCAPE FROM L.A., VAMPIRES, GHOSTS OF MARS (the thing that seemingly finished him) or the cumulative effect of not hitting it out of the park right away on stuff like THE THING or BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (both of which are now considered classics), but it seems like work for him now, not something he really enjoys doing.</p><p> I recall almost getting to meet him during my tenure as a sales clerk at Dave's Video in Studio City. Unfortunately, he got mobbed with fans almost immediately, and I was behind the counter, so I never got to talk to him (not that he needed another asshole mobbing him with questions or slobbering on him). Somebody asked him how the shoot on VAMPIRES had gone, or was going, and he said something to the effect of "It's going well, but I'm sure I'll find a way to fuck it up somehow." Obviously, he was trying to be funny and glib about it, but it also sounded kind of sad.
June 10, 2011, 6:47 a.m. CST
I'll take Carpenter, but I will also take Lucas and Spielberg too, ass. I just wish he could find a Ridley Scott-like second wind and show the punks how its really done. I'd also wish people would pull their heads out and give "Escape from LA" it's due. It's a satire of action films, that is also a great return of Snake. It's only sin is that it had a broader sense of humor than the first film. So many people to this day, misunderstand the film. I got it and love it long time.
shpadoinkle, you're right about the ending of PRINCE OF DARKNESS, that one shit me right up at the time. Was it also the first horror movie to make use of the crackly cctv style footager? (like we now see all the place in BLAIR WITCH, THE RING, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, etc)
June 10, 2011, 6:49 a.m. CST
"Elvis" is a good Carpenter movie, but not a good biography of Elvis Presely the entertainer. That's not Carps fault, just saying, no one should ever watch it for the facts, because it plays fast and loose with them; just watch it for the fantastic peformance from the Kurt.
June 10, 2011, 6:50 a.m. CST
is a mind-screw. Awesome!
June 10, 2011, 7:05 a.m. CST
The man is a CHOPPAH in his own right.
June 10, 2011, 7:05 a.m. CST
... was awful. ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK had satirical elements and plenty of humor, but it also worked as a straight action movie and played really well off the urban horror surrounding New York around that time. ESCAPE FROM L.A. played like a fan-written cartoon remake of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and just looked terrible. How did James Cameron and a Corman-caliber budget manage to make the first one look so slick, and whoever did the effects for the sequel, with a budget and technology presumably far superior, manage to make it all look so bad? Nothing in ESCAPE FROM L.A. worked ... basically, because it was just a rehash, and it had all been done a lot better the first time around.</p><p> PRINCE OF DARKNESS is an extremely underrated film. Awesome score, and one of the last glimpses of Carpenter's inventiveness with the camera -- the sense of dread pervading the entire movie, the mind-boggling dream sequences, the crude but effective "zombies", the glimpses of the Devil waiting on the other side of the mirror, the ending -- everything worked amazingly well. THEY LIVE could have ranked right up there, but Roddy Piper really ruins it. When he's not sounding like he's challenging Rick Flair to a cage match, he comes off like a (very) poor man's Kurt Russell, and that fifteen minute alley brawl with Keith David is just ridiculous. In fact, Keith David should have played the lead in the first place, and maybe Piper could have played his role. It would definitely have changed the dynamic of the entire movie, and, let's face it, hearing Keith David growl "I have come here to kick ass and chew gum, and I'm all out of gum!" would have sounded a lot less ridiculous.
June 10, 2011, 7:11 a.m. CST
it's pretty obvious really.
June 10, 2011, 7:16 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
A number one. Harry, on that sad day when you got, make sure you leave AICN to Quint in your will. I would have loved to see more They Live discussion, but I understand time constraints. I can't believe I only saw The Thing for the first time last year. I don't know how that happened as I've seen EFNY so many times I can't count.
June 10, 2011, 7:18 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
Clint Eastwood. Ask him about everything, especially his monkey movies. Critics bashed him for those, but the fans loves those. Fact - Clint has never made a bad movie.
June 10, 2011, 7:20 a.m. CST
Great interview, fantastic down to earth guy. Big trouble, Escape NY, They Live love'em all...Such a shame though about The Thing when it came out you also had ET and people seem to love a cute alien instead of well.... It's still one of my fav sci-fi horror flicks and although I'm intrigued with the prequel I'm not sure they really needed to make it but maybe if it makes enough ca$h maybe they can get carpenter back for a sequel and give him the kudos he deserves for some amazing films, and yeah...gotta have Kurt in there too :) Oh yeah, they live rocks too!
June 10, 2011, 7:21 a.m. CST
I ain't buying that for a second. If it was meant to be a "parody", I think they should have gone further to make it feel like one. It felt more to me like nobody wanted to say "no" to Kurt Russell and things that may have seemed more sly and satirical on paper just rode off the rails by the time they went before the camera. And Carpenter got paid a cool five mil to direct it (Russell got ten), so I'm sure he was cool with whatever. There wasn't much of an effort to make the movie actually justify its own existence.
June 10, 2011, 7:27 a.m. CST
Nice job Quint, and good to see Prince of Darkness is having a bit of a resurgence. It, They Live and In The Mouth of Madness are all absolutely worthy of standing alongside Carpenter's early run of classics.
June 10, 2011, 7:30 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
Don't mess with Keith David or Roddy Piper in an alley.
June 10, 2011, 7:35 a.m. CST
Quint, you know this since you're a fan, but there is a dearth of good writing on PRINCE OF DARKNESS.
It's one of CHOPPAH's favorites, and I'd love to see some more critical and analytical literature on it. Here's hoping, if you get to talking to JC again, you focus on POD.
June 10, 2011, 7:37 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
Prince of Darknes was okay, but They Live! is underrated. Come on, go to the next interview ready to chew bubble gum, and kick ass.
June 10, 2011, 7:42 a.m. CST
by Shut the Fuck up Donny
I remember when he came and he seemed very...annoyed at having to be there. He was civil, but clearly he wasn't invested in the event or talking to the fans. He also tended to be a little snarky in response to questions he didn't care for... Reading this interview, I again get that whole vibe...Civil, but not entirely sincere. Based on the experiences you've now had with him, would you say that is just his interviewing style? Do you think he has an aversion to interviews? Did we just get him on a bad weekend when he came to Atlanta? Or is he just not interested in the fan base? I adore the man's work, but that damn convention appearance has left a bad taste in my mouth for God knows how many years. I'm sure even if you agreed, as a professional courtesy you wouldn't post anything negative--which is understandable. I just want to believe that a man like Carpenter, who has built his career on some pretty geeky films, would respect his audience a bit more...
June 10, 2011, 7:42 a.m. CST
There's some weird, surreal shit going on, some heady ideas, some interesting choices that should be addressed with more depth.
June 10, 2011, 7:43 a.m. CST
Someone mentioned this before. Someone needs to seriously get on this case. We need to know how/where he is! The man is a god.
June 10, 2011, 7:51 a.m. CST
I like the film and think it is a decent horror film. That was the last thing he did that I enjoyed unless you count the episode of Masters of Horror: Cigarette Burns which was a fun and gory episode (the less said about Pro-Life the better)
June 10, 2011, 7:53 a.m. CST
I'm pretty sure Carpenter already knows you can replace Indians with zombies, thus turning a western into a horror story since that's exactly what he did with his movie Ghosts of Mars.
GHOST OF MARS had zombies in? I'm starting to wonder if i've actually seen this film... I might be getting it confused with that other Mars movie that came out around the same time, the De Palma one. PRINCE OF DARKNESS kinda had zombies in it too, hobo zombies - you think the undead smell bad...
June 10, 2011, 8:17 a.m. CST
Is one scary film. You're right it has this quality, not a jumping at you BOO thing but, a creeping sense of dread that really works at you. Those dreams from the future are just plain unsettling. And the final shot of Brian reaching out to the mirror, wondering if Catherine is on the other side just freaking nails it . The score is Carpenter's best, without a doubt, a horror music masterpiece and the 2 CD complete score from BSX is brilliant
June 10, 2011, 8:25 a.m. CST
My favorite quote had to be "I don't understand why there's another transformers movie" Carp is a fucking legend and not only is EFNY one of his best works, but it's my all time favorite film. (Kurt Russell had set the precedent for modern day action heroes in cinema. Not Stallone, not Arnie and certainly not Willis.) Yeah, Prince of Darkness did suck, but he (John) made up for it with Vampires. And say whatever you wish, the guy is multi talanted. I mean what other profilic Director is known for having an impressive record of scoring his movies? Best of luck with The Ward JC and I'm looking forward to your creative input in F3AR. PS In the disappointing sequel EFLA, Hayes had a breif cameo as one of Cuevo Jones' guards during that basketball scene. (Didn't know Issac "Ike" was dead?!? WTF did these guys have a falling out or what?)
June 10, 2011, 8:30 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
and that was the first and last time I saw it. It's been so long I honestly don't recall much about it except for Alice Cooper.
June 10, 2011, 8:31 a.m. CST
I used to think you were a Streisand but yer rockin the shit lately.
June 10, 2011, 8:32 a.m. CST
There's no way in hell anyone can make excuses for that underperforming sequel. I'm a fan of Carpenter, but some things I just can't overlook. Hopefully, he and Kurt will be around to make Escape from Earth, but the way things are going, it might not come to light.
June 10, 2011, 8:49 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
then that's the worst kind of parody. Hippy surfers, renegade plastic surgeons. I mean all the freaks in EFNY served a purpose. Not so in EFLA.
June 10, 2011, 8:59 a.m. CST
Hardcore Carpenter enthusiast, here. An enormous fan of Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness, as well, but you got in some great questions. See if you can line up that second interview now...;)
June 10, 2011, 9:17 a.m. CST
by Righteous Brother
Its never boring, and has a great score by the late Shirley Walker.
June 10, 2011, 9:21 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
it was crap.
June 10, 2011, 9:48 a.m. CST
Quint thanks for asking this question. I was wondering this very thing 2 minutes into The Ward. i was like, this is not carpenter's score. to be honest, i was a little sad. It almost didn't feel like a Carpenter movie because of that
June 10, 2011, 10:27 a.m. CST
Haven't read it yet but I'm sure it's excellent. Great job Quint!!!!
June 10, 2011, 10:28 a.m. CST
he shoulda got his son Cody to score it. I thought he did a really good job with Cigarette Burns
June 10, 2011, 10:31 a.m. CST
I agree with others here though. It didn't seem like Carpenter really wanted to be doing this interview. It's pretty obvious that he probably did it just because the publicists said it would help drive enthusiasm for his new film. Seems kind of cynical to me. I love the fact that the only time he actually got passionate and seemed to enjoy the interview was when he was talking about Jed. I'm quite ashamed of this, but I haven't seen Carpenter's The Thing. I need to rectify that oversight soon. Specifically to watch Jed's performance. Anyway, regardless of Carpenter's disdain for the process, you still turned in a great interview. Thanks Quint!
June 10, 2011, 10:45 a.m. CST
No one has made more films that I out and out love than John Carpenter. Sure, he's had a few misses too, but even his misses are more interesting than most other modern directors hits these days. It's a shame that Herc banned Childs, as I know he's a hardcore Carpenter fan as well.
June 10, 2011, 10:49 a.m. CST
I love every single one of Carpenter's scores, with and without Alan Howarth. Pure musical awesome, and many of them truly iconic. They definitely deserve the deluxe release treatment.
June 10, 2011, 11:12 a.m. CST
When I look at my DVD collection, there is one section of my shelves which is devoted exclusively to the films of John Carpenter. I can honestly say that I've enjoyed every movie that this incredibly talented man has ever made. Sure, I enjoy some more than others, but I will take a (so-called) "bad" John Carpenter movie, over most movies by other well-known directors. When you look at the number of remakes, sequels, and prequels based on Carpenter works in various stages of production, you see that Hollywood is only now discovering what we fans already knew. John Carpenter is one of the greatest American filmmakers of all time - the very definition of the word "auteur." Thanks, Quint, for a great interview, and especially, thank you John Carpenter for all the great entertainment that you've given us (and continue to give us) throughout the years!
June 10, 2011, 11:28 a.m. CST
Eli Roth is far from a genius. The Bear Jew is the best thing he has done and that is not saying much.
June 10, 2011, 11:46 a.m. CST
Another enjoyable interview. I have a nice little John Carpenter section in my movie collection myself. It could stand to add a few more titles for sure (still have yet to see PRINCE OF DARKNESS), and Carpenter has always seemed to be very under-appreciated by many. But damn....his best are absolute classics.
June 10, 2011, 11:58 a.m. CST
by Shaner Jedi
John Carpenter: Dude, every movie is a struggle. (laughs) There’s no movie that you can dial in and order a pizza… LOL.
June 10, 2011, 12:04 p.m. CST
A unique film. Very interesting ideas, as I recall they don't get fully realized. Time to watch this one again.
June 10, 2011, 12:16 p.m. CST
My enthusiasm for it is obviously greater than yours, but you're right, as a script it isn't fully realized. It could have used another draft or two to streamline and smooth out some things, but its power comes from the atmosphere, the set pieces, the ideas.
June 10, 2011, 12:17 p.m. CST
As he is for so many others, Carpenter is one of my personal movie gods. That one director brought us "Halloween," "The Fog," "Assault...," "Escape from NY," "Big Trouble...," "Starman...," "Prince of Darkness," "They Live," and I'm sure I'm forgetting a couple others... Jesus.
June 10, 2011, 12:32 p.m. CST
A quick Google search brings up several stories claiming he retired from effects work for a career in real estate. Hmmmmm...
June 10, 2011, 12:35 p.m. CST
by Shut the Fuck up Donny
Bottin may want to go back into to special effects...
June 10, 2011, 12:38 p.m. CST
Carpenter needs to jump back on the horse and kick some ass!! The world, and us movie fans need him!!
Or we will be stuck with idiots like Ratner forever!!!
June 10, 2011, 12:50 p.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
To quote Nelson Muntz "Ha ha!"
June 10, 2011, 1:50 p.m. CST
June 10, 2011, 2:23 p.m. CST
I remember being four years old, and my family and I were going to the movies. We had been planning it for days. My brother and sister explained to me that the movie theater was a place with a huge screen. I had seen movies on television before, but never in a theater! They explained that when you got there, the room got all dark, and you had to be quiet, unless you were laughing. The movie that my parents were taking us to was a film about an alien. I had heard my brother talking about it, and he was excited. A commercial for the movie would play on TV and he would point out that it was the movie that we were going to see. I was really excited; the whole family was. This movie had everybody talking. It was a huge cultural phenomenom. The movie, was E.T. The night we were going to see it arrived. My Dad and Mom got us all into the family car, and drove us over to the theater. It was a smaller place with only three screens. We all got out of the car, and walked up to the ticket counter. I could tell that my mother was upset soon enough. E.T. was sold out for the rest of the night. My brother and sister were pissed, but being that they were both older than I, they took it as just one of those things in life. I, on the other hand, was inconsolable. I pitched an absolute, first class, atomic fit; right in the parking lot. I remember that my Dad had to pick me up and carry me back to the car. My Mother was sort of panicking because she knew that they had to get me to a movie that night. I think that the experience of going to a movie was what worked me up all week, and the thought of not getting to experience that made me cry up a storm. When we were all back in the car, my parents started conferring about what to do. My Dad was ready to call it a night and go back home and watch Hee-Haw. My Mother was having none of that. She convinced him to drive over to the other theater in town to see what was playing there. I started to calm down a little. I think I may have realized for the first time that a temper tantrum works sometimes. When we arrived at the other theater, I was in awe at how much larger it was. This theater had eight screens, and it looked newer. When we got up to the ticket counter, my Dad and Mom started to argue over what to see. I became impatient, and the next thing I knew, my Father was walking back over to us kids with five tickets. Both of my parents grew up loving science fiction. My Father had even worked as a projectionist in the late fifties. Later in my life, he would tell me about all of the classic film he got to see when he was a young man. A lot of those were sci-fi classics like Earth VS. the Flying Saucers, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and The Thing From Another World. My Mother would go on to be just about the biggest X-Files and Sci-Fi Network fan. On this particular night, I think they just decided to throw all caution to the wind, ignore the R rating, and purchase five tickets for John Carpenter's The Thing. After the popcorn and soda was purchased, and bathrooms used, our brood entered into the theater, and found our seats. Out of about three hundred or so seats, the theater was about 10% filled. I sat between my brother and my sister. I do not recall the previews that they showed, nor do I recall most of the film. There are a few moments that I remember vividly though. The one that I remember the most is the blood test scene. When Kurt Russel's Mac is sticking the wire into the petrie dish full of blood, and The Thing leaps out, I just about soiled myself. The other bit I remember clearly, is the dog assimilation scene. When all of those tentacles ooze out of him and the head split open, I think my popcorn went flying. When we all shuffled out of the theater at the end, my mother was unimpressed to say the least. She kept saying that she bet E.T. was better. I can remember my Dad saying something like they don't make them like they used to. I think my brother thought it was okay, and my sister didn't really have an opinion. She was sixteen at the time, and she probably regarded being out with her family as torture anyway. I wasn't old enough to really know what I thought about the film, yet, around that same time, I did develop a keen interest in horror films. I started sneaking out of bed anytime one was on television. I would watch it, crouched down next to the couch in the living room, while my family watched, to avoid detection. For years, John Carpenter's The Thing became something of derision in my house. My Mother would talk about it sometimes when she was talking about bad movies. It had never really received a second look from most of us until about midway through the nineties. I was just getting out of high school, and I was at Blockbuster Video one night and decided to rent it. After all, John Carpenter did direct my favorite film of all time, Halloween, so I decided to give this film a fair shot. When I got home, my mother asked what I rented. I told her and she rolled her eyes and started complaining about it like it was 1982 again. I didn't let her loathing of the film dissuade me. I was going to watch it again, and make up my own mind about it. About two hours later, I was watching the final credits come up, and I just couldn't believe what I had seen. This was not only one of the best horror or science fiction films ever made, but it was one of the best films period. I couldn't believe that I had gone such a long time knowing that the film existed, but never really gave it a fair shot. It had been the first film that I remembered seeing the theaters for God's sake. I was shocked. How many other great films out there had Carpenter done? I remembered the Halloween films, and The Fog. Those were classics in my house. I had remembered Big Trouble in Little China because it had been on cable about a million times. I vaguely remembered my sister taking my brother and me to see a film he did called Prince of Darkness, though I didn't really remember what it was about. I may have seen They Live on cable, but I couldn't be sure. From that point on, every Friday night was devoted to renting Carpenter films. I discovered Escape From New York, Assault on Precinct 13, Starman, and Christine. I watched all of them. From then on, anytime that a Carpenter film was released in theaters, I was there. If he made something like the Masters of Horror, I bought it. The man started my love of films, and it has continued on into today. He is my favorite director of all time, and I find myself aping his style when I make short films, or when I write scripts. I am forever grateful for that night I saw The Thing in 1982. From the age of four, I've known that I was going to do something in the film industry, and it all started with a sold out show to a box office heavyweight. Months after that night, I managed to finally see E.T. It was still playing in theaters. I think I may have cried, but what four year old doesn't cry at a movie like that? Years have passed, and I'm happy to see that E.T. is kind of laughed at today while The Thing is considered to be one of the classics of it's genre. Thank you John Carpenter.
June 10, 2011, 2:42 p.m. CST
I love John Carpenter's movies. Halloween is my all time favorite. But he sure came off sounding grumpy and sarcastic.
June 10, 2011, 3:02 p.m. CST
Deadpit.com Horror talk radio out of Kentucky did an hour and a half long interview with Carpenter in 2007 that was 10 times as insightful and comprehensive as this. Carpenter is making the rounds for this new flick, but he clearly isn't interested in talking anymore. Nothing against Quint, just saying.
June 10, 2011, 3:08 p.m. CST
I always loved it as it was a pitch perfect indictment of all that's cliche in LA. The plastic surgery, the surfing hippies, the gang problems, transgender crime boss stuff.... IMO, EFNY was a commentary on the cold barren danger and decay of NYC during the 70's and early 80's and EFLA did the same commentary on a cornball glitzy cheesefest of LA in the late 80's and 90's....
June 10, 2011, 3:38 p.m. CST
lol I love how you try to bait him a bit with talkbacks and Christopher Nolan, too bad he didn't bite. It's a good interview for what you had to work with.. maybe it's really true, Quint IS the new Frank Oz. Nordling involved.
June 10, 2011, 3:43 p.m. CST
June 10, 2011, 4:22 p.m. CST
There is absolutely no way ESCAPE FROM L.A. works as either a parody or an action movie. ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK managed to keep its subversions low-key, because the premise itself was plenty bizarre enough and needed no zany cartoon antics to oversell the point. ESCAPE FROM L.A. was just badly done on every level. By the time you see Kurt Russell pulling a "Big Kahuna" on the L.A. Basin, you pretty much give up hope that anything remotely entertaining or engaging is going to happen. And that re-worked theme song was awful -- the version "Dr." Matt Fink did for his collection of horror theme covers even managed to sound better!</p><p> And anyone who hasn't seen PRINCE OF DARKNESS, track it down and see it now!!! It's probably the last fully-realized Carpenter movie (aside from fifty percent of THEY LIVE and maybe IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS).
June 10, 2011, 4:26 p.m. CST
Escape from NY / The Thing / Big Trouble in Little China -- all three some of my favortie movies of all time. I remember one night in college, renting Escape and Big Trouble. Me and my buds watched them back-to-back. Then everyone called it a night and went to bed... and I put 'em both back on and watched 'em both again that same night. I truly love every single frame of all three of those movies! Escape from L.A.? -- fuck that movie w/ a broken broom handle. Travesty. BTW - awesome anecdote above about seeing The Thing at the age of 4! I'm surprised you weren't instituionalized after that experience at such a young age. I saw it as a teenager in 1982 and it scared the livin' shit out of me even then. Fuck, now I wanna go home and watch all three of these tonight! Great job, Quint! (Although, I'll admit, I too am NOT a fan of Prince of Darkness. Doesn't quite come together on many, many levels.... just sayin').
June 10, 2011, 4:30 p.m. CST
Escape From New York could adapted to a good videogame. Look at The Warriors..a sandbox style game with Snake travelling around the imprisoned New York...it could work.
June 10, 2011, 4:37 p.m. CST
by Cameron Harrison
I don't hate L.A. Sure there's some terrible....TERRIBLE CGI effects. And certainly some cringe worthy moments (the surfing scene springs to mind). But there's also some really great moments. Bruce Campbell as The Surgeon. All of Steve Buscemi's stuff. I even kind of liked the basketball game. And you have to admit, that the ending of L.A. is one of the best movie endings of all time. He shuts down the world! Pretty bad ass, in my book. I would love to see Escape from Earth sometime...or even Escape from Vegas. That could work.
June 10, 2011, 4:48 p.m. CST
There are things and ideas in EfLA that are cool or should've worked, BUT... they are ALL overshadowed by the overall stench of the incredibly lazy, ball-less retread that is that movie. The Ending? Yeah, great idea, but by then it's way too late to save that stinking pile of dogshit. Bruce Campbell? Okay, ya got me there.
June 10, 2011, 5:50 p.m. CST
...how it is humanly possible for one man to make a movie as brilliant as The Thing (top twenty from the 80s, probably top ten) and one as ghastly as Prince of Darkness within only five years of each other. It just blows my mind.
June 10, 2011, 6:06 p.m. CST
Dude, I think the soul-crushing process of dealing with the studios, combined with some really bad box-office luck, just sorta... broke him. IMHO.
June 10, 2011, 6:07 p.m. CST
I love me some Spielberg, but this was the interview I was looking forward to the most. Keep it up man!
June 10, 2011, 6:10 p.m. CST
I just finished watching The Ward and it is not as bad as I have been reading. Sure, it's not anywhere near the brilliance that is Halloween, The Thing, etc. ...but it was a decent little movie. It reminded me of something I might have discovered on cable, late at night, as a kid. I guess that doesn't sound much like praise, but I mean it in a good way.
June 10, 2011, 6:33 p.m. CST
It wasn't brilliant, but it wasn't so bad. I think the ending really made up for a lot of the crap (surfing).
June 10, 2011, 7:09 p.m. CST
...Dark Star? Everybody skips over that one....But it holds a special place on my list. I mean, C'mon...
June 10, 2011, 9:12 p.m. CST
by Tom Vidovich
Prince of Darkness has all this quantum physics in the plot, which is basically Night of the Living Dead set in a church but wrapped up with alot of neat sci-fi notions and They Live is class warfare pure and simple. Excellent drive-in movies about aliens and interdimensional zombies full of intellect that have had a great influence. Have always thought they would be considered higher in his canon if they'd starred Kurt Russell but I really like Jameson Parker and Egg and Wang heldover from Big Trouble in POD.
June 10, 2011, 9:34 p.m. CST
Wish there was more to come.
June 10, 2011, 10:13 p.m. CST
I love Carpenter. I'm 40, and as I read this, it took me back and I remembered how much fun I had watching his movies as a kid. They hold a special place. Great interview man. Thanks.
June 10, 2011, 10:23 p.m. CST
For the cinematic abortion that was "John Carpenter's Vampires." Took a great book by John Steakley ("Vampire$") and completely re-wrote major plot points, omitted great scenes, and included ludirous ones (notably the monks, who looked cast right from the gay dancers at the end of "Blazing Saddles", and who were defending this almighty cross with fucking wooden farm tools). Should have been an all-time movie, but now one among many failures, all due to his anti-religious, egomaniacal fervor to put his spin on it. Asshole.
June 10, 2011, 10:26 p.m. CST
The movie is not a parody of EFNY. It is merely another installment. The way I like to think of it is it's like a James Bond movie. Like a Bond film, it has all the little setpieces needed to make an Escape flick work. James Bond has the meeting with M, Snake has his opening de-briefing. Bond has his usual sizing up the villain scene, Snake has the gladitoral game to the death in front of cheering fans. If the Escape movies became a franchise like Bond, this would've been more obvious. Bond fans love the little mini-moments that make a Bond picture (meeting with Q, baccarat games, tour of villain's lair) and EFLA fans like me love the signature moments (helpful gal gets killed off immediately, sniveling sidekick, Snake's final F.U. to authority) EFLA offers. To me, Halloween, The Thing, and Big Trouble are Carpenter's finest, but even the worst Carpenter films (Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Village of the Damned) are better than most director's best.
June 10, 2011, 10:37 p.m. CST
.....do him for being a cinematic god.
June 10, 2011, 11:49 p.m. CST
June 11, 2011, 1:06 a.m. CST
That film had such an impact on me. It has a tone that's completely unique. The future and devil scenes still creep me out - so well teased, never giving you the full reveal. Terrific cast, haunting atmosphere, great stuff.
June 11, 2011, 8:25 a.m. CST
That episode of MASTERS OF HORROR was writen by one of AICN's former contributor,s f i'm n ot mistaken. It was an OK story, but it felt underwhelemed in the end. I think it could had been better, somehow. Not the fault of the directing, which did it's best to tell the tale. It was an intriguing premise, but i don't think the story actually fullfilled it's potential. Compared to IMPRINT it certainly is found lacking.
June 11, 2011, 8:26 a.m. CST
I recently rewatched PRINC EOF DARKNESS. i have liked that movie since i first saw in the theaters back in th day. I think it's a sadly underrated and overlooked movie.
June 11, 2011, 8:30 a.m. CST
Not that i share it, but i do really understand why you love the movie. THe humour and the jabs at mainstream entertaiment is quite funny, and it's loads of fun to see Snake being even more vicious, sly, cunning and cynical then he already was in EFNY. And that ending is an absolute killer! It's ballsy, and so apropos to the Snake character and the univese he lives in.
And it has Amber Heard, always a plus.
June 11, 2011, 1:09 p.m. CST
Also, has anyone ever asked JC directly about the overwhelming similarity of his HALLOWEEN theme to the DEEP RED (1975) score?
June 11, 2011, 2:25 p.m. CST
to all those noting how he seemed grumpy, sarcastic, etc in this interview... literally every single interview he's ever done is just like this. this is just his personality. he's a no-bullshit type of dude who clearly doesn't get all the hero worship baggage of the typical fanboy interview (no disrespect meant to the interviewer, but i can see how that would be awkward to a humble average-joe type like carpenter). if anything that just makes him even more awesome in my eyes that he doesn't get wrapped up in the self-aggrandizing mythology-making of Hollywood... he doesn't look at himself or his career like he's some moviemaking god, he just looks at it like a job and goes out and makes movies, and some are awesome and some aren't and that's the way it is. he just fucking tells it like it is time after time and good for him!!!
June 11, 2011, 2:44 p.m. CST
The interview was 10 hours longer...
June 11, 2011, 3:22 p.m. CST
by Lord Elric
Yes! With some major talk on PRINCE OF DARKNESS and AT THE MOUTH OF MADNESS, two seriously underrated movies, along with THEY LIVE. Excellent work, but boo on the publicist cutting you off just as things were getting good! I think Carpenter was really curious on how someone of your generation felt about some the things you were talking about. It's great seeing that flow go back and forth between different generations, seeing what still works...all of that.
June 11, 2011, 4:19 p.m. CST
June 11, 2011, 4:56 p.m. CST
That TV movie just rocks.
June 11, 2011, 5:03 p.m. CST
by Evil Chicken
Spielberg & Carpenter? Quint - you are my Hero.
June 11, 2011, 6:51 p.m. CST
June 11, 2011, 6:57 p.m. CST
Seriously the interviews over the past few weeks were damn great. Keep up this level of work. Who knows, maybe this site will get noticed :)
June 11, 2011, 7 p.m. CST
There are a few fanboy scripts out there but it would have been interesting on hearing the official version. So far there has only been the novelization of EFNY as far as anything official in print, it would have been nice to see that world expanded upon
June 12, 2011, 1:45 a.m. CST
Quint, I really wish you would have asked him about the 90's, about his "not so great" stuff. He seems like a guy that would tell you straight up what really happened with Ghosts of Mars.
June 12, 2011, 7:44 a.m. CST
by Spencer Malton
Doesn't have to be a sequel, just get them two working on a new kinda hero. Carpenter is a genius, he towers above the likes of this new generation of so called Film makers. Anyway Up the Irons!
June 12, 2011, 9:25 a.m. CST
Great interview. You're on a roll Quint. Don't let Harry eat it. I keed, I keed..
June 12, 2011, 11:12 a.m. CST
by david starling
The Elvis movie that Russell starred in is still extremely good. However Russell and Carpenter then went on to become major parts in 3 of the best movies of the 80's: Escape from New York The Thing Big Trouble in Little China Too bad Escape from LA was lame, thing I would love to know - would Russell ever consider teaming up with Carpenter again, for one last shot at glory? It wouldn't have to even be a sequel for goodness sake!! Now there's a movie I would kill to see, and to listen to the commentary on the DVD/BR too!!
June 12, 2011, 3:50 p.m. CST
Thanks for asking him about it. I don't recall reading much from him about it at al, certainly not since it first came out anyway. He's clearly cloudy on details ("'83? '84?" It was '82), but nice to hear that he likes how it turned out. It's an underrated little shocker and the score is masterful. May be JC's best.
June 12, 2011, 4:07 p.m. CST
I am a huge fan of JC, but that is a bona fide stinker. One of his worst and easily the most disappointing films. I like the basketball scene and Hayes brief cameo, A.J. Langer looks hot, and Russell does a great job. But the performances can't save it. The FX are so bad (almost deliberately so), and I tried to like it, I really did. It's a clumsy mess.
June 12, 2011, 8:36 p.m. CST
Didn't he re-use the score from "They Live" in almost all of his later works? I was re-watching "Escape from LA" a couple of weeks ago on Cinemax - in HD - and I swore it was used throughout most of the film. Da-da-duh...Da-da-duh... That's not a criticism either; I love it. I think it's a bit funny that he's bummed about Argento being with Roth. I seem to recall when he was the young director he had one hot lady next to his side as well... You should've asked him what his Xbox Live gamertag is, not to mention if he'd pick Josh Holloway to take up Snake's mantle in any future "Escape" films. While I like Butler and Renner, they ain't Snake. Maybe Olyphant, but I still prefer Holloway as the best choice. I don't like the fanboi hate for his later films. I'd say "The Ghosts of Mars" is better than "Vampires" but both are watchable films. And "The Prince of Darkness" should've always been considered a classic. Good gawd, I just had an idea. He should direct a Steven Moffat teleplay [or screenplay]. Whether it's a Doctor Who episode, a Sherlock episode, or a sequel to Jekyll. And I'd say the chances are high of Carpenter being aware of such modern works; after all, he was a Quartermass fan back in the 70s...
June 12, 2011, 11:39 p.m. CST
This was an idea I had in my last post but I thought I'd post it again under its own heading. I really think the BBC should approach Mr. Carpenter about directing the next Doctor Who episode that is shot here in the US for the next season. Combined with a script penned by showrunner Steven Moffat, the pairing would be epic. Mr. Carpenter, if you are reading this and are unaware of Mr. Moffat's writing chops, check out the episode entitled "Blink". It's up on iTunes and NetFlix. There's plenty of others that he's written that are almost as fantastic as it but I think that episode would summarize it up for you if you only have time for one of his episodes...
June 13, 2011, 8:05 a.m. CST
It's not brilliant by any stretch of the imagination but it's clear that Carpenter is having a lot of fun creating jump after jump after jump.
June 17, 2011, 11:41 a.m. CST
As a lifetime fan and admirer of JC, I am dying to know if there will ever be any alternate/director cut versions of ANY of his films as he seems to have been bullied by studios for almost his entire career, at least the major studio backings. Anybody have any info on this to share? Yes, I've seen alternate and deleted scenes such as the Escape From New York bank robbery but I want MORE!
Aug. 21, 2011, 10:16 a.m. CST
by Bill McVeigh
... but you can't honestly be surprised that you didn't get to cover much - your comments (it's hard to call the questions - though you ask a bunch of rhetorical ones that require nothing but 'right') are longer than his - was really looking forward to reading this, but got another Oprah - I'm going to make this about what I think of you - Winfrey interview. Oh, and please find a synonym for 'kind of'... Again, love the enthusiasm, but work on allowing the subject to expand and guide the discussion (fair enough with Beihn - but Carpenter is a bright guy). I suppose apologizing for being negative in the talkback is redundant, but I just honestly think that this web site has an opportunity & forum that most others (and even fewer magazines) possesses and it's annoying when great opportunities are wasted.
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