So Drive Angry is out on video now, and the film’s a fucking blast, and you really should give it a look. In celebration – yes, celebration – of this fantastic flick, we’re doing a series of interviews with the gents who made it possible. First up – screenwriter Todd Farmer. Farmer wrote the wondrous Jason X, teamed with Patrick Lussier for My Bloody Valentine 3D, and reunited with his cohort for Drive Angry.
I’m recording this the old-fashioned way. With a dodgy telephone pickup – which means I’m gonna’ look all Gene Hackman in The Conversation when it’s time to transcribe the thing.
Oh, man – old school.
Let get the important stuff outta’ the way…when does America get Todd Farmer full-frontal?
I think we’re gonna’ have to do that – with multiple piercings – on Hellraiser.
So Hellraiser is happening right now?
Yeah. Matter of fact, Patrick and I – we were working on Hellraiser right before this press stuff.
Are you guys doing that in 3D, as well?
I…don’t…know – we haven’t talked about it. Maybe someone has talked to Patrick about it.
Is it possible it’s too grim for 3D?
There’s no trace of humor or irony if you’re doing Hellraiser right – it doesn’t set itself up to be a “ride”. Well, there is humor in life – so there could be some humor there, but if you’re a fan of happy endings – don’t see Hellraiser, I can say that much.
Does knowing the finished film will be in 3D alter how you write? Do you script more gags?
Not really. For me, character and story come first – and for Patrick too – but he’s visual enough to get a sense for how things’ll play, so he’ll come back at me with, “Instead of The Accountant throwing you to the floor and ripping out your spine, how about he takes the bat, breaks it in half, and throws it into the camera.”
…and he’s right.
Usually, the screenwriter is barred from the set under threat of violence, but you’ve actually acted in three of the films you’ve written – does that speak to you being on the set a lot?
It’s really rare for the writer to be on set – and Patrick had to fight for me to be on set.
Yeah – they just don’t want you there. But they see with us that the collaboration doesn’t stop with the page. There’s more to the way we work than that.
I wrote a note to myself to make sure I remembered to ask this
Is Amber Heard’s “Piper” character based on anyone you’ve known, and can I have her phone number?
(Laughs) I don’t think you want it, actually, ‘cause…it’s kinda’ me.
(laughter) Well…I don’t know if it’s as simple as that. She’s obviously compassionate and maternal – and she likes men. …but what’s cool and different about her is that she’s not someone who has to become the tough girl because she’s pushed – she’s a two-fisted little demon before we ever meet her. She was beating people on the playground when she was seven – but she’s got real heart.
We said all the way through writing and all the way through shooting it that Piper is the heart of the film. Even though it might take her awhile to get there.
At the same time – for such a demonic hard-ass – John Milton is a surprisingly soulful character as realized by Cage – and I love that the dynamic between the two of them is father/daughter.
That was something we really had trouble with in the casting – ‘cause we saw a lot of girls…and there were some actresses who really wanted the role – but if it felt like they wanted to – if they played it like they wanted to fuck Nic, it was over.
How did Cage come to be involved?
We finished the first draft and went out with it, and we talked to Michael DeLuca.
DeLuca’s a genius.
Definitely. Definitely – and when he read it, he loved it – and he said he thought Nic would love it. So he took it to Nic, and Nic wanted to talk to us – and we spent about twenty minutes with him, and he was in.
You know, there are people who say that Cage is in this place right now where he’s taking anything he’s offered – but I think that’s denying his sensibilities, and what he brings to a role.
Absolutely – he brought so much to the character.
And to read a script where…I mean – this is a movie where the hero says, “I don’t think I’ll have that beer unless I can drink it outta’ his skull” – and you know…that by the end…Nicholas Cage is gonna’ drink beer out of a human skull. To read that and respond to it.
You know what…?
Yeah. That was all Nic.
Fuck, man…that’s so awesome!
We didn’t know that was coming. He said that line, and Patrick and I were like, “Shiiit!” So we run to (effects artist) Gary Tunnicliffe – who’s a genius – and we tell him, “We need…a skull…immediately.
That’s amazing. Like I said – that sensibility.
Nic and Fichtner really brought a lot to what was written –
Fichtner is fantastic in this movie.
He really is. He saw things we didn’t see. The way The Accountant moved – they way he responds to Katy outside the diner.
Yeah – everyone on the set fell in love with her. But it was his idea that he hadn’t seen a real living woman in a long time, and the way he reacts to her – that’s all Fichtner.
How was working with Summit? I recall reading somewhere that they forced you guys to do the prologue that gives away…the revelation that is pretty central to the plot – and they made that revelation part of the advertising – I’m trying not to be spoilery here, since there will be people discovering the film on video…was it a thing where they didn’t get the film they bought, or..
No – you know…I have no idea how the world of marketing works. The marketing people at Summit told us that there have been a lot of revenge movies lately, and they said, “If we can use the supernatural element – maybe the film won’t get lost.”
So the new opening was about playing up that angle?
Right – but when we went out with the film – we didn’t tell people that Milton broke outta’ Hell – and even in the film, we never really say that he busted out of Hell. And had we known that the studio would have wanted to use that in the trailers…
Yeah – the trailer really just lets that outta’ the bag.
I think trailers give too much away in general.
Absolutely. I love the old trailers that would show you the movie being shot. Or the Hitchcock trailers – the William Castle trailers – where the people involved got to explain themselves a bit – and you got a few action beats, and a hint of locale – an established tone – and that’s it.
Yeah – have you ever seen the trailer for the original Alien?
The sorta’ alien landscape…and the egg cracking – it’s ominous, it creates an expectation – but none of that footage or imagery is in the film. Perfect.
I remember the first trailer for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It was a map, and a voiceover, and John Williams score.
Wow – really?
Yeah – it was on the original VHS Release of Raiders. It was just like, “these guys are making another movie in all these exotic places, and you should just see it when it comes out.”
I’ve never seen that – I have to look that up. But yeah – trailers give away too much, and the thing is, if I knew that they were going to give away that element of the film, I would have written something more elaborate – something that could’ve been budgeted into the shoot. We’d have done an “escape” sequence…and we would have used Nic. I mean, when we did Jason X – they put Uber-Jason on the poster. I wouldn’t have given that away.
But you know – that is a great poster.
It really is.
I had that poster on my wall for years, right above my computer.
(laughs) I have the posters for Jason X, My Bloody Valentine, and Drive Angry on my office wall, so…
Yeah…not bad. And the poster for Drive Angry is incredible.
Did you see the motion poster they put together?
Yeah – I was all, “Look at Amber Heard’s billowy haiiiir…
Sorry. (laughs) But like I said, I can’t pretend to understand marketing, and those people have a tough job…I think it’ll get to the point someday where a couple of marketing guys’ll be there to follow a screenwriter around.
You know, they’re just trying to sell the film. And at the end of the day I can’t complain – we really did get to make the movie we wanted to make.
So what’s next for you guys? Hellraiser’s a go – but it seems like there are signs of life with Halloween as well…?
Yeah – hopefully we’ll go right into Halloween once Hellraiser is done.
And you’re not doing a reboot – you’ll remain in Rob Zombie’s continuity?
Yeah – we had to do it that way…‘cause I think anything else would be cheating. The purpose of this is to take what Rob Zombie has done and bring it more in line with the sorta’ Carpenter tone – and that’s why the people who’ve read it responded to it. And we’ve written the perfect part to bring back Tom Atkins…in a movie called Halloween 3…
But I think it was just timing. We couldn’t start Halloween before Hellraiser, so we put it on hold – and it’s something that’s gotta’ happen someday. We’ve gotta’ make it happen.
Where are you and Bradstreet and Thomas Jane at with Devil’s Commandos?
That’s a really cool story, and the script is done – and we’ve just gone out with it, and we’re gonna’ make it ourselves. Tom’s directing – he’s directed before, so he knows what he’s doing, and he’s going to put the financing together himself, because he’s Thomas Jane, and he can do that.
How cool is my life that I get to hang out with those guys?
Pretty fuckin’ cool, I must say. How about you – do you plan on directing anytime soon?
No. I have no interest in that…at all. My strengths are in writing, and in helping Patrick on set – because a director needs someone on set to make things easier; to handle the things he doesn’t have time for.
One would think that would be the AD – but that’s not always the case…
Yeah – some ADs are there to help the director achieve the result – some of them are there to keep the director in line. Patrick does not need the latter. I can do the former. So I can write…I can produce – but I have no desire to direct.
Right about that time, the publicist came on to tell us that we were way over the time limit, so we had to kill the line. But if you want to keep up with what Farmer’s doing, he’s pretty active – and funny – on Facebook and Twitter, and he maintains a really worthwhile blog.
Up next – director Patrick Lussier!