Graphic novelist and screenwriter Steve Niles called into Cinematical headquarters this weekend from the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors Convention in New Jersey. We talked all things 30, from the marketing push that will include a series of short films based on the comics, to the ComicCon plans for the film, to the rating -- it's going to be R, for sure -- to the massive sequel potential that exists, considering how much source material there is. (Niles is already thinking about a Dark Days sequel revolving around Melissa George's character, something even she wasn't thinking about when I spoke with her last November) If you're a movie person who isn't familiar with the 30 Days graphic novels or Niles' work in general, he's a major name in comics, having developed many well-known titles and collaborated with scores of other artists.
I was eager to get a sense from him of what kind of vampire effects we're in store for with the film, but he told me Weta is still keeping that information under strict lock and key. Oh well. In addition to 30 Days, he was also ready to talk up Bigfoot, a straight-up horror movie he's jointly developing with Rob Zombie -- a finished script is out to directors. For those who worry about seeing another Bigfoot story that tries to make the beast a sympathetic humanoid, you'll be glad to know that Niles is steering in exactly the opposite direction. Check out the full interview below.
RS: How goes the convention?
SN: So far, so good. It's really funny because I usually do these things on the West Coast, and I walked into this one and it's like, I pretty much ran into the same people, the same vendors, it's very funny. I got here and it was very familiar.
RS: I heard you're taking 30 Days to ComicCon; you're going to be there in person?
SN: Oh yeah, definitely. I'll be there in person, and I'll be doing stuff at IDW, doing some comic stuff, we've got some new 30 Days comics coming out. Sony's got a big thing -- they're going to have a booth there this year. We're gonna be doing a big panel and showing clips, and we might even be unveiling some 30 Days merchandise, some collectible figures or something like that. I'm still waiting to find out, but all day Saturday is going to be '30 Days crazy.'
RS: So have you seen a cut? Is it still in post?
SN: I saw ... I know there's been one test screening since the one I saw. But I hear that they are really close to locking it. Still waiting for word on if we're going to get any re-shoots or anything like that. But for the most part, what I've seen is the finished film.
RS: How much of your draft survived the Stu Beattie draft and the other one? How much of your scripting work is still in there?
SN: An amazing amount of it is. What I used, especially in my version, I used a lot of dialogue from the comic. And all of it's in there. So a lot of my dialogue, a few of my gags, a few things I came up with -- slaughtering the dogs and all of that stuff -- a few things that were just kind of expanding on the idea of the comic -- it all made it. It's really unbelievable. I'm really happy that the three of us are sharing credit because we all became friends and we all worked together, and we all had the same ... we all wanted to make it as close to the comic as possible.
RS: I heard the director was pretty good about letting the writers be on set, collaborating.
SN: Yeah, Brian Nelson was on set the entire time, and ever since they've been back editing, he's been calling me, asking my advice about stuff, even a couple of times he's needed a dialogue tweak, so I've emailed him a couple of scenes. Just always reaching out and just helping. I can't tell you. I've experienced and heard so many Hollywood horror stories, and this one is literally the anti-Hollywood horror story.
RS: Yeah, I was going to ask if that would spoil you on future collaborations.
SN: Oh, I know. It really is. I know the way writers get treated most of the time, so I'm trying to prepare myself for that, but this time it's been unbelievable how nice everybody is.
RS: I spoke to Melissa George last fall, and she was telling me that the vampire effects were going in a sort of old-school, non-CGI direction. What can you tell me about what's ended up in the final film?
SN: I'm not even sure yet, because Weta has been keeping it very closely guarded. I'm waiting to find out. Have you seen the trailer?
RS: I have, yeah. And I was surprised that an actress would have that kind of information, anyway.
SN: Well, that's just it. I'm looking at those vampires, and I'm like 'How can that be practical make-up?' It looks so disturbing. Their eyes are too small. So I'm waiting right now, basically, to find out how they did that. I'm thinking that it's got to be some kind of digital.
RS: Yeah, it almost looks like the vampires are a race unto themselves, as opposed to 'normal guys with sharp teeth.'
SN: Yeah, yeah, I know. They look so unnatural. And scary, which I really like. However they're doing it, I just love it. But I'm still waiting to find out, because Weta is keeping their secrets from everybody right now.
RS: Are you involved in those Victor Garcia short films we've heard about?
SN: Yeah, I was a consultant on it, and I worked pretty close with Ben Ketai who did the screenplay, or the little episode plays, and I was there for the last night of shooting, so I got to meet Victor and some of the stars, and basically I sat down and said 'this is what I think it should be,' and they followed it. That's what it is.
RS: Are they going to accompany the theatrical print, or is this marketing for up to the release date?
SN: They will be used up to the release date. The last episode will be October 18. And what's really interesting ... have you read the first graphic novel?
RS: I haven't. I'm a horror fan, but not so much a comic fan, so I'll be coming to the film blind as far as the source material goes.
SN: Well, that's how most people will be seeing it, so I'll be very curious for those reactions. What I hear is that people who know the comic, their reactions are based on how close it is to that.
RS: Are you pretty protective of your books, or do you take the Stephen King approach of 'I did my thing, now you go make something different from it'?
SN: Yeah, pretty much, I'm like that. There are certain things I want to protect, just because I'm not just selling these. In some cases, I'd rather it be done well than sell it. I don't want to do like ... Alan Moore has a tendency to sell off his comics, and then they become movies and then he gets pissed off and takes his name off! I think with minimal involvement, that's the thing. That's why when this thing turned into a bidding war, it wasn't money -- the amounts they were throwing around then, any one of them was astronomical to me. I was working retail at the time. So I went with Raimi. As soon as Raimi entered, I said 'I don't care what they're offering, I don't care what it is, go with Raimi.' And then it was the same thing when they picked David Slade. He was a fan of the comics and he pursued the project being a fan of the comics. I think that's the way to go.
With Stephen King, don't forget he's getting novels adapted. You could get four movies out of any given novel. Look at L.A. Confidential. It's a miracle they got that great a movie out of that giant novel. There could have been any number of movies. But with a comic, I think most of it is about expanding to film as opposed to cutting back, like with a novel, where there's way too much material that you could never get to. So I think it's important for the filmmakers and I think it's been proven, that the more accurate the material is, to the source material, the better it is. And the better the reaction will be. Raimi proved it with Spider-Man, the first one. Especially, because he did Spider-Man. Frank Miller, Sin City and 300, are right off the comic page. And I think the new Fantastic Four did pretty good, but the first one, they messed with the origin and I think they lost some people, because of that. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? What the hell is Tom Sawyer doing in there? League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is one of best comics ever. You know? It's smart. Then they make the movie of it and they lose everything that made people love it in the first place.
RS: Just blame Sean Connery.
SN: Okay, sure. I'll probably never meet him, so sure, we can blame him.
RS: What rating are you shooting for with 30 Days?
SN: Oh, it's R. Definitely an R.
RS: The big talk recently has been the viability of R-rated horror in general: the one-two punch of the failure of Hostel: Part II and the success of the PG-13 film, 1408. What do you think about all that?
SN: What happened with Hostel, I know Eli and a lot of people are saying it was because of bootlegging, but you know, I know horror fans and horror fans will watch bootlegs and then go to the theater and then buy the DVD. They're not like that. So, I think what happened with Hostel was a definite message that people are sick and tired of watching women being tortured and murdered and it being called horror. So I'm on the boat that's saying it looks like it might be the death of torture porn, which I really support, but I don't think horror is dead. Horror will never be dead. People will always want to be scared. And the scarier the times, the more we like our roller-coasters. We need to get it our of our system. And I think that's why something like the King movie did good. It's the release. That's the thing with torture porn -- it's like, Christ, I might as well be watching Al Jazeera, you know? You still want a little bit of escapism, you know?
RS: What's up next? Bigfoot?
SN: I wrote the screenplay for Bigfoot, and we're trying to find a director for it right now. Tom Jane and I have a company called Raw, and we're putting out a bunch of comic books. We just put out a thing called Alien Pig Farm, and we put out Bad Planet, and right now working on The Lurkers, based on one of my comics, for Lionsgate.
RS: The only thing I know of The Lurkers is that it's a noir comic, sort of in the mold of Sin City -- is that right?
SN: The Lurkers is, if we do it right, it will be a film noir horror movie. We're really shooting for something gritty -- Chandler/Hammett gritty -- but with horror.
RS: Say Bigfoot to me and I think of those Boggy Creek movies from the 70s and Harry and the Hendersons. Can Bigfoot still be a scary screen presence?
SN: I think so, if you treat him right. The Boggy Creek, when I was a little kid, it was the commercials for Boggy Creek that scared the crap out of me. It had all the good stuff. It had him jumping through the window and the howl, and all that stuff. I never watched Harry and the Hendersons. I couldn't deal with it. But yeah, I completely think he can be scary. Half the things they do when they make Bigfoot movies, is they always get to the point where they make him sympathetic. It's like, 'dude, nobody made the shark sympathetic in Jaws, so everybody cheered when it blew up!' The Bigfoot in mine and Rob's Bigfoot story is a nasty maneater who has had it. Humans are prey. I think it's scary as hell, and I think it can be done, it just has to be done in the right spirit.
RS: So how come Rob's not jumping on board to direct?
SN: He doesn't want to direct it. He wants to work on other stuff. When I was writing the screenplay, he had just started writing Halloween and Rob is very single-minded and dedicated, so he doesn't like to do more than one project at once. So he called and just said 'I gotta work on Halloween and I don't want to half-ass work it.' So who knows, though? We're looking for a director. We'll see what happens with Halloween and 30 Days of Night. We'll see what we can do with it.
RS: Have you got sequel ideas mapped out for 30 Days? What's your fondest hope on that front?
SN: If people like it, I would love to see them move on and do Dark Days. Then Melissa George would be the star of that movie. I'd love to see that happen, but I'm kind of proceeding the same way I did with this movie. I'm holding my breath and trying not to get too excited and get ahead of myself. We'll see what happens, but I'm ready for anything at this point.
RS: What else are you working on?
SN: I have an original novel coming up, that I'll be announcing. I just signed a book deal. I'll be announcing what company and when the novel will be coming out. I have a lot of creator-owned comics I'm working on. I'm doing Simon Dark at D.C. with Scott Hampton, starting in October. I've been doing City of Others with Bernie Wrightson, and I'm doing a book called The Sinner with Bill Sienkiewicz starting in the fall. I've got a million other things going on. I've got video games. I've got a video game called Strange Cases coming out. It also has a comic component to it. The Cryptics video game. Then my regular series, which is Criminal Macabre, the Cal McDonald comics, they're doing an omnibus of all the novels for September, Dark Horse is. And I'm working on, now, I think the ninth series for him right now. So we're gonna get that going. That's my big thing. I really want to do a Cal McDonald/Criminal Macabre movie. That's the next one up for me.
RS: Are you a workaholic?
SN: Yeah, pretty much. Ever since I was a little kid, I was sort of like 'project boy.' I love sitting around just doing whatever, playing in bands or making fanzines or whatever. I'm having the time of my life doing horror comics and movies. It doesn't even feel like work. Until somebody gets mad at me, it doesn't feel like work.